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The Bar (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

The Bar (El Bar)

THE BAR (EL BAR) (2017)

Starring Blanca Suarez, Mario Casas, Carmen Machi, Terele Pavez, Alejandro Awada, Joaquin Climent, Secun de la Rosa and Jaime Ordonez.

Screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarria.

Directed by Alex de la Iglesia.

Distributed by Pokeepsie Films. 102 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2017 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Alex de la Iglesia is sort of like the Spanish Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead), a smart, hip, funny guy who puts a unique spin on some pretty overdone cheesy film genres. (Though, in fairness, de la Iglesia has been doing it a good deal longer than Wright has.)

Occasionally over the years, his quirky films have made a slight inroads on the international scene. The crazy 2004 serial killer romantic comedy El Crimen Perfecto was terrific, as was My Big Night a couple of years ago.

Now, de la Iglesia takes on what could arguably be the most overdone genres out there – and frankly one that I am particularly tired of – the post-apocalyptic bunker film, and tries to give it his own particularly fizzy wild streak.

The good news is that The Bar (El Bar) is a smart deconstruction of the form, a mile-a-minute rush of action and laughs that never loses the audience’s interest. The bad news is, like most of these movies, everyone in the film eventually becomes annoying and honestly you can’t care less who survives and who doesn’t. (Though, I am willing to bet that many watchers will be able to figure out who will survive, I certainly could.)

It’s too bad, because it really has a grabber of a concept. A diverse bunch of strangers are in a seedy bar off a crowded Madrid street. Suddenly, one of the customers walks out of the place and is shot dead. Another man runs out to help the man, who is already dead, and he is also shot. The crowd runs away, completely abandoning the square, and never come back.

An hour or two later, cops show up in hazmat suits, ignoring the people in the bar and starting fires in the street. Eventually the survivors figure out that a man has died in the rest room, of a mysterious virus which has ravaged his body already. Which makes everyone wonder, have they been infected? It seems the police think they have, because they are leaving them to die.

The people in the bar are not so much characters as they are types. You have the handsome hipster guy who works in tech. You have the smart-but-gorgeous woman who is all-but-guaranteed to have to end up in her bra and panties before this all ends. There is the mysterious businessman who is carrying some sort of contraband. There is the tough and angry disgraced former cop. There is the obnoxious diner owner and the overworked waiter. There is the middle-aged spinster. And there is the insane homeless man.

Sadly, after this terrific setup, the movie settles into the pretty expected infighting and temporary alliances as they all try to escape and survive. Complicating things is the fact that the dead man only has four doses of a potential antidote – though it didn’t seem to work too well for him – and too many people to use them without letting others potentially die.

The Bar has some very funny dialogue, and it handles its slightly rote storyline with a certain oddball savvy. But in the end, it can’t overcome its pulp roots. If you’re into this kind of movie, you’ll probably love The Bar. I kind of enjoyed it for what it is, but I doubt I’ll ever give it another thought after finishing this story.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: October 30, 2017.

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