Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // $19.98 // February 15, 2005
Review by Jeff Paramchuk | posted July 19, 2005
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Crime capers are a dime a dozen and the quality of each range dramatically from movie to movie. Some are great and stand out from the crowd, and some settle to the bottom of the list and are rarely heard from. Sadly, I found Asfalto, from director Daniel Calparsoro to fall to the bottom of said pile of movies. It had a story line that I felt was better explored by some movies like Confidence and even Matchstick Men.

Asfalto starts near the end of the story to be told; opening with a car careening through traffic ultimately making a hasty stop when it collides with another vehicle. Then we are transported back over a year and see the lead characters in process of selecting their mark. Lucia (Najwa Nimri) is used as a sex object to entice a French drug dealer to let her into his room, where she'll leave a door open to allow Charly (Juan Diego Botto) and Chino (Gustavo Salmerón) to enter and rob the Frenchman of his payload, and in turn make a sale of their own. Things naturally don't go as planned and Chino makes a grave mistake, shooting the French drug dealer. Expecting the worst and in a display of family trust, Chino tells his brother who happens to be a dirty a police officer what has transpired and when the final deal will be taking place in an effort to make things right for himself.

The time to make the deal comes, and we find the trio in a secluded house with the seedy underbelly of Madrid preparing to strike a deal when the police show up, and at the request of Chino's brother, Lucia and Chino are spared the handcuffs and Charly is left to deal with the consequences of the groups action. Months pass, and we catch back up with Chino who has followed in the soiled shoes of his brother and joined the police force, and he remains loyal to Lucia who, along with her mother, are involved in cutting and selling high grade drugs to allow Lucia and Chino to buy an apartment. But Charly has since been released from jail and without Chino's knowledge; he and Lucia have also been planning something. The trio is reunited after a well orchestrated mishap, and they fall back into the bond that they had prior to the shakedown.

While that may sound like a lot, the movie moved at a pace where it seemed very little was actually happening onscreen. I found the dialog to be somewhat sparse, but perhaps that is a flaw with my complete lack of Spanish skills and to a person fluent in Spanish, the movie may have more details in the dialog that didn't quite make it through the translations. Not a terrible movie by any means, Asfalto just seemed to suffer from half-backed syndrome, when an idea took hold in a scene it seemed to either be rushed thereafter or not executed in a very thorough way, leaving me wanting more in terms of character development to help me get a better connection with the leads.


How's it Look:

If you ever walk outside during the harsh daytime sun, you'll get a feel for how Asfalto looks, even during its slightly darkened indoor scenes. The palette seems slightly washed out and dusty which does fit quite well with the impression of Madrid that I've set in my head. The video also seemed slightly grainy at times, and in the final scene of the movie there was an exposure-type issue, where frames of the movie alternated from too bright to too dark. Asfalto is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Overall, I was not impressed with the DVD presentation due to the grain, and the fluxations in what I thought looked like exposure issues.

How's it Sound:

There is only one option for Asfalto, and that is the original language option, Spanish, in a two channel Stereo format. Thankfully, the movie didn't really require a larger sound scape as it's quite heavily dialog driven. For those not fluent in Spanish, there is a single option for English captions to help you view the movie. Having no other sound option is actually a good thing, as dubbing of foreign movies really removes a lot of the personality from a movie for me, and keeping this Spanish throughout really helped bring me into the world of Chino, Lucia and Charly.


The only extra is a trailer. No deleted scenes, no commentary, no production stills. Nada.

Closing thoughts:

While the idea of a sexy Spanish thriller seemed exciting at the time, after watching Asfalto I felt that I had seen movies like it before, and even done much better. The characters seemed shallow and undeveloped, especially the dramatic change of the character of Lucia's mother. It did have one thing going for it that actually pleased me quite a lot and that was the fact that there really was no resolution to the film. In a day where the majority of movies tend to try and tie off any loose ends before the credits roll, it was a refreshing sight. It's also a relief that the movie was not dubbed and is shown the way it was intended to be seen, and that reason alone makes this worth a rental.

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