Below Zero is a mostly-solid action-thriller that knows how to steal from better movies, ratchet up the tension, and provide enough nasty twists to keep you invested. Its Con Air meets Assault on Precinct 13 premise is immediately appealing: a mysterious killer ambushes a prison transport, trapping the prisoners inside along with the lone surviving cop. The attacker issues an ultimatum: hand over just one of their number, and the rest can go free. Things go wrong from there, and tensions rise with the body count.

That middle section, where everyone is trapped in the bus and escape seems impossible, is where Below Zero shines. With the power dynamic between cop and captives disrupted, if not levelled, the prisoners’ personalities get some breathing room. In particular, charming thief Ramis (Callejo) is an intriguing foil to stiff-necked cop Martín (Gutiérrez). However, it’s left to the actors to fill out this growing friendly-enemy relationship, which is ultimately underserved by the script. It’s a shame that, in the process of cannibalising its predecessors, Below Zero didn’t take on more Heat.

The wheels come off in the third act, which dispels the tension with a long-winded explanation of the villain’s motives, punctuated with comically inept stabs at meaningful imagery – a CGI deer here, a bloodstained mirror there. Gutiérrez’s performance packs a punch, but the emotional arc of Good Cop to Sad Cop is hard to care about. The saving grace of the last ten minutes is a properly gruesome gore shot, perhaps implying that director Lluís Quílez would have done well to follow his baser instincts throughout.

Below Zero flirts with character depth and shocking brutality, but doesn’t go all-in on either. The result is dark, pulpy fun that feels like it should get around to pulling off something truly audacious, but never does.



CAST: Javier Gutiérrez, Karra Elejalde, Luis Callejo

DIRECTOR: Lluís Quílez

WRITERS: Fernando Navarro, Lluís Quílez

SYNOPSIS: When a prisoner transfer van is attacked, the cop in charge must fight those inside and outside while dealing with a silent foe: the icy temperatures.