'The Body' (El Cuerpo) (unrated)

 

This slick Spanish thriller about a missing corpse is too preposterous to believe.

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By Rene Rodriguez rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

Just a few hours after the middle-aged Mayka (Belen Rueda) is found dead of a heart attack by her husband, Alex (Hugo Silva), and shipped off to the morgue, her corpse disappears. The security cameras all malfunctioned, so there’s no telling whether the body was stolen or it got up and walked out on its own. The night watchman is no help, either. Something spooked him so bad that he fled his post, ran through the woods into the street and was hit by a car.

The chief detective on the case, Jaime (Jose Coronado), is immediately suspicious of Alex and asks him to come to the morgue for questioning. He reluctantly complies, kicking off an elaborate cat-and-mouse game with the police that will stretch on well past morning.

Why all the head games? Because The Body (El cuerpo) lets the audience know right from the top that Alex did kill his wife, poisoning her glass of wine so he could inherit her wealth and run off with his red-haired mistress, Carla (Aura Garrido). But we also know he had nothing to do with the disappearance of her cadaver. He’s just as baffled as the investigators. So where did she go? And what’s up with all the incriminating evidence that keeps materializing out of thin air like magic, forcing Alex to scramble to keep it hidden from the cops? Is Mayka somehow still alive, exacting a pranky revenge on him?

First-time director Oriol Paulo, who also co-wrote the screenplay, gives The Body a stylish gloss worthy of De Palma, and his central premise is a neat reversal on Hitchcock formula: Instead of an innocent man unfairly accused, here is a guilty protagonist trying to get away with murder, and we are made complicit in the crime.

The setup is intriguing. But The Body soon crosses over into preposterous territory, with flashbacks that don’t always play fair and coincidences too ridiculous to believe. In one scene, Alex is locked in a bathroom stall, fishing out pieces of paper from a filthy, clogged-up toilet and eating them. The bit makes for an effective gross-out, but it’s also blatant and silly and immediately takes you out of the story. By the end, The Body has solved all the riddles and mysteries it raised. But the solution is so complicated and implausible, even Scooby-Doo would call foul.

Cast: Jose Coronado, Belen Rueda, Hugo Silva, Aura Garrido.

Director: Oriol Paulo.

Screenwriters: Oriol Paulo, Lara Sendim.

Producers: Joaquin Padro, Mar Targarona, Mercedes Gamero.

An Outsider Pictures release. Running time: 110 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, nudity, clinical gore, adult themes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Opens Friday Aug. 2 in Miami-Dade: Tower, Hialeah; in Fort Lauderdale: Cinema Paradiso.

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