Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Quim (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is driving through the mountainous and rural beauty of northern Spain when suddenly he finds himself in the cross hairs of a sniper. Forced to set off on foot when his car is disabled, he runs for his life from the unknown assailant. And that’s it. There are a few other bits and pieces including a woman Quim meets in a gas station bathroom, but that’s King of the Hill‘s plot almost in its entirety, and the film is better off for it. It’s a refreshingly simple, straight-forward, and fast little thriller that refuses to offer blatant explanations or motivations for any of the characters. Aside from one minor revelation there are no twists or surprises to distract from the action and tension, but to say any more about the story would damage it’s unpretentious simplicity.
Director Gonzolo Lopez-Gallego and writer Javier Gullon manage to take this bare kernel of a plot and maintain almost ninety minutes of suspense, and the fact that they do it with such an unlikable protagonist is a minor miracle. To be clear, it’s the character that irritates, not the actor, and it’s to the film’s benefit that we find our anger with Quim wavering throughout. Sbaraglia does an excellent job in showing his fear and desperation, and while you may hate some of the man’s actions you’ll also be wondering if you could have handled things differently. A handful of other characters appear, some as plot dressing and some as targets, and all do equally fine jobs with their roles.
King of the Hill really shines on the cinematography front with a combination of beautiful wide vistas, terror-filled closeups, and sharp POV shots down the barrel of a moving gun. Sound impresses too especially when rounds hit cars with Quim inside. Most films show the bullet hitting the car’s metallic exterior with a quick spark and a “ding!” Here the impact can almost be felt as the rounds slam into the car’s exterior with real weight and force behind them. It’s powerful and frightening
While the simple setup and structure of King of the Hill are it’s biggest strength, they’re also it’s only real weakness. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a cat and mouse game, but that means it’s not trying for anything more either. There’s a small and subtle dose of social criticism, but it doesn’t distract from the fact that the film is only interested in entertaining and keeping you on edge for as long as possible. Not a lofty goal, but a sincere one, and at that the film succeeds brilliantly.
King of the Hill (El Rey de la Montana) was recently released on DVD from Dimension Extreme. Check out the trailer below.
Bottom Line: King of the Hill is a solid thriller with a simple premise, and it never tries to be anything more than that. Both main actors are convincing in their terror, and while the male lead is often weak and afraid, those traits actually serve as a refreshing change of pace to the traditional protagonist character. The film’s killer revelation is similar to one’s seen in two other recent thrillers from England and France (but handled better and more believably than the British film). Suspenseful, tension-filled, and occasionally surprising, King of the Hill is definitely one of the best films yet released under the Dimension Extreme label, even if it doesn’t fit the typical “Extreme” mold.