Starring: Miki Esparbé, María León, Carlos Areces
Director: Joaquín Mazón
Running Time: 97 mins
Heroes Wanted (Cuerpo de élite) is a Spanish film about a team of people from all across Spain that are assembled to become the country’s top fighting force, tasked with bringing down the villain that eliminated the previous elite corps, and stole a nuclear weapon.
While it has fun with a throwaway parody of all things espionage and action, Heroes Wanted really misses the mark when it comes to the comedic side of things. As a result, although it proves a fairly enjoyable watch at its most ridiculous, parodic moments, its comedic core is incredibly underwhelming throughout, with a frustratingly one-note sense of humour that never really makes you laugh as much as the film desperately wants.
Before I get into why Heroes Wanted isn’t all that funny, though, let’s talk about the other side of the movie, the action. Taking cues from the likes of Mission: Impossible and everything else in the genre, the film throws five mismatched nobodies into the arena of major international espionage in a story that, at its silliest, proves surprisingly enjoyable.
I won’t say that the movie ever manages to enthral you in its unpredictability, given the fairly simple and deliberately ludicrous nature of the crime story, but Heroes Wanted does have enough of a fun-loving atmosphere and affinity for the crime/espionage genre to prove a genuinely enjoyable parody throughout.
On top of that, the lead performances are all pretty entertaining too. Miki Esparbé and María León star in the two key roles at the centre of the story, and while they’re pretty likable, it’s actually the secondary players of Andoni Agirregomezkorta, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Carlos Areces, Jordi Sánchez and Silvia Abril that prove the most entertaining to watch.
Esparbé and León do well to endear you to the mismatched nature of the new special forces unit, and their chemistry plays well at times, but the secondary characters add to the fun with their more zany and ridiculous performances, playing up the stereotypes of their various cultural backgrounds with delightfully comical turns that proved the funniest part of the whole movie for me.
But that right there, despite being a positive from the actors, is also the point where the movie’s screenplay falls apart. As a silly, throwaway action parody, it’s a fairly enjoyable watch, and there’s no need for a story that’s genuinely engrossing, however the comedy in this screenplay is woefully weak throughout, and proves a majorly disappointing part of the film.
The majority of the humour focuses on the various cultural stereotypes of different regions in Spain (and beyond), with the new special forces unit being made up of people from Madrid, Andalucia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Ecuador, and their differing backgrounds and personalities inevitably causing friction and chaos.
In that, there’s a lot of emphasis on more in-depth cultural in-jokes throughout the movie that may go over international viewers’ heads (much like I felt was the case in the equally domestically popular Spanish Affair), but it’s not too difficult to get to grips with that you can’t understand the general personalities at play.
Where the comedy really falls apart is its over-reliance on this one running joke. Rather than being a genuinely funny film with jokes coming at you left, right and centre, the movie puts almost all of its eggs in the cultural divide basket, and doesn’t do much else to make you laugh. While that proves passable early on, it’s nowhere near enough to carry a whole movie, and it quickly becomes a dull and frustratingly one-note sense of humour throughout.
As a result, I never found Heroes Wanted quite as funny as I’m sure the movie wants to be. It may have a playful and throwaway action parody vibe, as well as collection of fun performances, but as a purely funny comedy, the film really falls apart due to a one-note and repetitive sense of humour, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9 overall.