7th Floor, your by-the-book thriller

Sebastián (Ricardo Darín) and Gabriela (Belén Rueda) in Seventh.

Sebastián (Ricardo Darín) and Gabriela (Belén Rueda) in Seventh.

By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey

Catalan filmmaker Patxi Amezcua makes his Argentine debut with 7th Floor (Séptimo, 2013), his second movie, an Argentine-Spanish co-production and vehicle for two of the highest-grossing actors in each country’s market, Ricardo Darín and Belén Rueda. They play a marriage on the rocks whose two kids vanish without a trace while taking the stairs in their apartment building, somewhere between the ground floor and their flat on the seventh.

Surely they must be somewhere inside the building? Sebastián (Darín) conducts a makeshift investigation, clashing with practically every neighbor while trying to figure out the situation. You get your obvious suspects, the more insidious kind of suspects, and then some. Gabriela (Rueda), who’s been warming up the divorce papers, blames him. And all the while a shady embezzlement case brews in the background, while Sebastián – one of the key lawyers involved – bides for time.

septimo-darin2

The movie’s weakest link is its clumsy presentation of a locked room mystery, or rather locked apartment building mystery, since we’re never given spatial indications of anything within said apartment building (unlike the title would suggest). We never know how many apartments there are in the building, or how many people are living in it, and which are checked and in what order – all of which beats the purpose of following Sebastián’s steps.

Darín and Rueda carry the movie pretty much on their own four shoulders. Darín, a staple of big-budget mainstream movies and everyone’s favorite Argentine Everyman (sleazy and streetwise, hailing from the lower middle-classes and with a more or less instact moral compass) delivers as expected. Seasoned character actors Luis Ziembrowski, Osvaldo Santoro and Jorge D’Elía hang around in colorful bit parts, as every thriller must sport. Also of mandatory nature: lots of gaping plot holes that make themselves noted way before Alfred Hitchcock’s prescribed trip to the fridge.

7th Floor works as your run-of-the-mill, ticking-clock thriller, complete with low-battery cell phones, car engine trouble and lots and lots of background checks, courtesy of this and that voice behind the phone. And for the most part it works pretty well: clocking at 85 minutes, it’s tightly built, carries a good rhythm and never fails to entertain – even if it doesn’t bring much of anything new to the table.

The movie’s being distributed by 20th Century Fox and will premiere in Argentina on September 5th and in Spain November 8th.

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