King of the Mountain

Leonardo Sbaraglia in King of the Mountain
Leonardo Sbaraglia in King of the Mountain

Spanish title: El rey de la montaña
Country: Spain
Genre: Thriller
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Produced by Juan Pita, Juanma Arance, Miguel Bardem, Elena Manrique for Telecinco Cinema S.A.U. (50%), Goodfellas S.L. (32%), Decontrabando Producciones Audiovisuales S.L. (18%)
Story and screenplay: Javier Gullón
Music: David Crespo
Cinematographer: Jose David Montero
Editor: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Art director: Peio Villalba
Cast: Leonardo Sbaraglia (Quim), María Valverde (Bea), Thomas Riordan (Hermano Menor), Andrés Juste (Hermano Mayor), Pablo Menasanch (Guardia Joven), Francisco Olmo (Guardia Mayor), Manuel Sánchez Ramos (Empleado Gasolinera)
Spanish takings: €337.669,61
Spanish spectators: 54.482
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€51.662,44), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€17.285,00)


Quim (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is an typically metropolitan chap who is on a trip across country after splitting up from his girlfriend. Following a chance encounter with Bea (María Valverde) in a service station, he discovers that she’s stolen his wallet and is left with little option but to follow her. This takes him off the main road and into the mountains, where someone starts taking pot-shots at him. With his car wrecked he joins forces with Bea as the two of them try to make their way back to civilization. But the unknown shootists are on their trail, equipped with rifles and telescopic lenses… and they’re anxious to get their kill.


King of the Mountain
King of the Mountain

While King of the Mountain doesn’t offer anything particularly new, it does what it does with some skill and easily competes with the many similar films being made in the English speaking world. Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, who made his debut with the intriguing Nómadas and has more recently decamped to America for Apollo 18 (2011) and Open Grave (2013), it’s a tightly constructed survival thriller with a heck of a twist at around the three quarters mark.

With a plot that’s essentially a cross between Would You Kill A Child? and The Most Dangerous Game, this is another Spanish film which pits the urban against the rural (see also The Night of the Sunflowers, which was made at around the same time) and which throws its protagonist into an increasingly desperate nightmare. As with many Spanish genre films it has a concision and willingness not to provide answers which marks it as different to American films. Even if it doesn’t feature a particularly high-concept idea, it does pull the rug from under your feet most effectively. Not the best of its type, but better than average.

Rating: 6/10

Review by Matt Blake, 2013

What the critics said

“It’s at its best in a tense middle section that plays as a pared-down existential nightmare. Director Gonzalo López-Gallego knows to keep the camera tight on his victims, leaving the assailants largely unseen: a silhouette on the cliff-top; an eyeball in the viewfinder. By the time you see them, you’re already dead.” Xan Brooks, The Guardian.

“You keep asking questions – Who’s the dead-shot gunning for them? Is this marksman playing a sadistic game? Is there more than one? – and Javier Gullon’s screenplay keeps blanking them. For as long as we have to guess, the film is a whip-smart exercise in stalk-and-flee dynamics, reminiscent of classics such as Deliverance and Southern Comfort, the latter, for me, still the most gripping of the backwoods-killers genre.” Anthony Quinn, The Independent.

“The film looks a lot better than it has any right to: Lopez-Gallego shoots with a keen sense of both landscape and suspense, hemming his inexplicably hunted characters in with moments of tight, claustrophobic intensity before pulling back to reveal their helpless isolation. It’s a shame these figures aren’t more compelling – we never for a moment care what happens to them – but as a work of hard-driving tension, this is satisfyingly terse, methodical and relentless.” Tom Huddleston, Time Out.


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