Que Dios nos perdone (2016)
Directed by: Rodrigo Sorogoyen | 126 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Antonio de la Torre, Roberto Álamo, Javier Pereira, Luis Zahera, Raúl Prieto, María de Nati, María Ballesteros, José Luis García Pérez, Mónica López, Rocío Muñoz-Cobo, Teresa Lozano, Fran Nortes, Andrés Gertrús Cabix, Jes , Alfonso Bassave, Raquel Perez
DeCock and Vledder, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Morse and Lewis, Grijpstra and De Gier; famous fictional detectives often have a sidekick as different from them as water to fire. Opposites complement each other, they sometimes say. So every good detective duo needs a thinker and a doer. In the Spanish detective ‘Que Dios nos perdone’ (‘May God save us’) from 2016, the introverted, socially awkward stutterer Luis Velarde (Antonio de la Torre) is paired with the passionate primal macho Javier Alfaro (Roberto Álamo). Velarde observes and ponders endlessly and first wants to create a profile of the perpetrator before he wants to take action. Keg of gunpowder Alfaro prefers to wave hands or throw himself into a wild chase. But Velarde also appears to have a dark side, just as Alfaro can also be loving. Both are therefore layered characters, who in ‘Que Dios nos perdone’, written and directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, come to a standstill with a brutal serial killer who targets single elderly people in Madrid.
It’s 2011. Madrid is gripped by the economic crisis and the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict when it is rocked by a series of horrific rapes and murders of elderly ladies. Detectives Velarde and Alfaro soon realize that the murders are related and prefer to keep the case quiet from the media. Especially because the police force has recently made a number of slips, something that makes Alfaro especially furious. After being unable to control himself again, he is suspended from active duty by his biased supervisor (José Luis García Perez). Velarde will still be involved in the investigation, but only in the background. As the net around the possible killer begins to close, the two detectives have to deal with their private concerns. Velarde is secretly in love with the attractive cleaning lady of his apartment complex (María Ballesteros), but acts rather thoughtlessly. Alfaro is not only troubled at work, but also at home with his adolescent daughter and a girlfriend who has another husband. Then try to keep your cool and stop the killer!
In ‘Que Dios nos perdone’ a lot of effort has been put into building the right, grim atmosphere. The Madrid in this film is sweltering hot, but far from sunny. The ambiance is rather oppressive; sometimes you feel like you can smell the stuffy skies through the screen. The characters are also well developed, in any case Velarde and Alfaro. They may be a bit cliché, but thanks in part to the excellent performances by De la Torre and Álamo, they come to life. Where the shoe pinches in ‘Que Dios nos perdone’ is in the scenario, which seems to be unable to make a choice. Are we looking at a genuine whodunnit, a character sketch of two opposites who have to work together or an insightful exploration of corruption within the Madrid police? Had Sorogoyen interwoven the different perspectives more carefully, it would not have been noticed. Now, however, you always have the idea of watching a different film, especially because problems, revelations and developments are easily skipped. The men mumble something to each other and look at a pile of documents and that’s it.
Only sporadically does Sorogoyen throw in a dynamic action scene, which manages to breathe some life into the film. Three quarters of the way through the film, he suddenly makes a remarkable and incomprehensible choice: we not only see who the murderer is, but also how he works. There you go whodunit! The final chord is suddenly a lot less interesting, even if it is still the question whether Velarde and Alfaro will eventually get hold of him. We already know that everyone has a good and an evil side, and that the boundaries between good and evil sometimes blur. In that regard, Sorogoyen is kicking in a wide open door. But for a film so messy and clichéd, ‘Que Dios nos perdone’ is quite entertaining. On paper, two hours sounds quite long for a film like this, but thanks to the penetrating atmosphere and the good acting, those 120 minutes fly by quickly.