Nov 7, 2018
Welcome back to Worldwide Wednesday! We’re taking a quick break between Orson Welles features to shoehorn in a film from both the Spanish and French film scenes, covering 1921 Barcelona fighting between rising corporate and government fascists against trade unionists and anarchists. Gosh, that doesn’t sound like any place we know! For a few other films from the scene, check out “Veronica” (Episode #080), “Sunday’s Illness” (Episode #171), “The Warning” (Episode #213), and “The Laws of Thermodynamics” (Episode #244). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Gun City” (2018), the Netflix Original historical thriller directed by Dani de la Torre Alvaredo, and written for the screen by Patxi Amézcua. The film follows the mysterious Aníbal Uriarte (Luis Tosar), a Basque member of the Information Brigade sent to discover who robbed a train transporting military weapons. His search will take him though the worlds of corrupt investigators, corporate control, human trafficking, and the anarchist resistance, where he’ll meet Sara Ortiz (Michelle Jenner), and begin to question his loyalties.
I think a lot about the rise of fascism nowadays, especially given the current political mood in the United States. Fascism isn’t something that happens overnight, but more like the frog in boiling water metaphor, where slow changes in temperature are ignored until it’s too late. Economic depression, wealth inequality, violent reactions to peaceful protest, overt nationalism. And I think it’s important to understand the time periods before other fascist societies came into existence, like the tense years before the 1923 military coup in Spain. We see many of the same factors in 1921 Barcelona as we do today, even if a more overt fascism in Spain was still fifteen years away, after a civil war backed by the German and Italian fascists. It was also a complex time, with powerful actors doing as they wish, no matter what the law might have said at the time, a lesson we should learn for today’s environment.
“Gun City” centers around an investigation into a military transport hijacked by unknown forces, adding to an already precarious political and military situation within Spain. Much like the state of today’s leftist politics within the United States, the trade unionists/anarchists of the time are split between the majority of folks, who want to take peaceful, civilly disobedient action against power, and those who believe violent resistance is either inevitable or preferable. No side is morally pure, even if one side might be considered ideologically pure. Aníbal Uriarte is our guide into this world, himself a mystery that has questionable and inconsistent morals when it comes to the horrific treatment of women and children, just as happy to shoot someone as rescue another. Luis Tosar’s performance is mysterious from start to finish, rarely giving away anything unless absolutely necessary, and while I can’t say I liked him, I did respect him from time to time, and as often as I hated him.
I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about this film. It reminded me of what American film noir would look like in a pre-fascist society, but with the obvious analogous European cultural stylings. The costumes, sets, and special effects all creative an immersive feel to the historical period, which really stands out. I felt like I got a complete story as well, even if I could see other stories using the remaining characters, perhaps even charting the next couple of years leading up to the military coup. It seems like a shame to waste all the incredible effort that went into building this world so well, especially given the historical moment we’re living through today.
“Gun City” (2018) is an excellent historical drama about a complicated moment in history, set in the years before a military coup in 1920s Spain, with a special emphasis on costumes and sets. While the film can deal with some very disturbing themes, it also never treads too far into the darkness, and provides enough of a feeling of justice towards the end to make the journey worth it. Fans of historical dramas, or pre-war noir films, should definitely check out this film, along with anyone else that’s interested in the nature and operation of pre-fascist societies.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 8.2/10
“Gun City” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.