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Stream It Or Skip It?

Spooky season is rapidly approaching, and Netflix is wasting no time in churning out some seriously chilling titles. The latest addition, a Spanish-language thriller called The Paramedic, tells the story of, well, a paramedic who turns to twisted revenge when his life is turned upside down. Is this unsettling thriller worth being revived for? Or is it a flatliner? 

The Gist: Ángel (Mario Casas) is a paramedic. His typical day might involve pulling people out of wrecked cars, pronouncing an elderly woman dead, or vaping in a hospital parking lot with a doctor. Unlike typical paramedics, however, Ángel likes to take a souvenir from each scene; sunglasses, watches, jewelry. He sells some, and keeps others in his locked wardrobe. Ángel also seemingly has a happy life with his girlfriend Vane (Déborah François), who is in school to become a veterinarian. The two are trying for a baby without much luck. Let’s be clear about one thing: Ángel is kind of a dick. He hates his neighbor and his neighbor’s dog simply because the dog barks at night while his owner goes to see his ailing wife at the hospital, he projects his own fertility issues onto Vane, and isn’t much of a pal to his coworker Ricardo. Vane seems distracted and more interested in hanging out with her classmates, and it’s not hard to see why. But they seem content to continue in this cycle, so they do – until they can’t anymore.

On a work call that seems to be like any other, Ángel’s life is changed forever after a truck rams into his ambulance. Paralyzed from the waist down, he finds himself unable to work, have fulfilling sex with Vane, or do many things for himself. He becomes increasingly angry and insecure, downloading a surveillance app onto Vane’s phone and blowing off his guilt-ridden coworker who was driving the night of the accident. He finds some solace in the company of his physical therapist, but his conversations with her only seem to serve his narcissism, too. As day after day passes in the apartment, Ángel only becomes more consumed by rage, and soon turns to violent acts of revenge against the people who have wronged him (and I use “wronged” loosely, because a normal person would not take bloody revenge against a dog for barking).

The Paramedic continues to escalate until Ángel desperately turns to his medical skills to enact his most depraved series of schemes. Ángel’s journey into his pit of despair and vengeance grows darker and darker until lives are lost and circumstances are changed forever, resulting in a violent and inevitable confrontation.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The Paramedic may not bear many obvious similarities to other flicks, but it calls to mind other domestic and captivity thrillers like Gerald’s Game and Misery, even if the hearts of these stories are distinctly different. It also echoes some familiar points seen in other obsession and revenge-driven films – particularly those with protagonists we are not rooting for – like Cape Fear.

Performance Worth Watching: Déborah François turns in a gutting performance as Ángel’s girlfriend Vane, bringing something fresh and intriguing to a role that generally feels pretty played out. Just when you think you’ve got her figured, or put her in some martyr girlfriend box, she subverts all expectations. François has a powerful, charming screen presence, and I can’t wait to see

Sex and Skin: The Paramedic wastes no time getting to the sexy stuff; shortly after we’ve met the titular paramedic, we’re taken on a trip to pound town with his girlfriend. There are a few more sexual encounters over the duration of the film, but due to the story’s dark twists and turns, they are rarely ever actually sexy.

Our Take: Technically sharp and well-performed, The Paramedic is an odd little movie. Despite barely being over an hour and a half, it often feels like it drags, perhaps due to the dark and unlikable nature of the film’s lead. This isn’t to say that Casas doesn’t do a great job with what he’s given; Ángel is simply such a deeply loathsome individual that it’s difficult to really enjoy much of the film. He doesn’t quite hit the antihero mark or fit the wronged victim bill, so we’re left watching a narcissist with very few redeeming qualities, both pre- and post-accident. If the main character of a film – especially one as dark as The Paramedic – isn’t vaguely watchable, you’re left with a frustrating piece of art, and that’s how I felt for much of The Paramedic.

Ángel lives in a hell of his own making, obsessed with the idea that his girlfriend is being unfaithful to him and isolating himself from the world no matter who tries to lend him a hand. I do wonder about what discussions there are to be had about Ángel being disabled, but the truth is, I don’t see a dramatic shift in the man we know before and after the accident. He kind of sucks from the get-go, and having to rely on others to take care of him only amplifies the insecurities and issues he had before. He just needed the push to go from relatively quiet gaslighter to violent, obsessive rage monster. The intense focus of Casas’ Ángel is totally unsettling, but I wonder if the film might have been more interesting – and the ending more fulfilling – had Vane been the lead, or at least had just as well-rounded a character as her boyfriend. You can tell there is so much more going on beneath the surface with François, and I found myself wishing we had the opportunity to spend more time with her.

If you’re a patient viewer and this brand of morbid tale is the kind of thing that engrosses you, you’ll probably be on board pretty quickly. It may not be the first (or second) thing I recommend to friends, but I don’t think it’s a bad thriller. The Paramedic is well-executed and acted, and there’s something to be said for its craftsmanship and the way it commits to the slow burn.

Our Call: STREAM IT, but with some reservations. The Paramedic is certainly well made, but Ángel is such an unlikeable protagonist that some of the sequences involving his revenge plots – and general existence – feel grueling and unpleasant to endure. That said, however, the film boasts strong performances, a competent script, and a well-executed slow burn which can be hard to come by these days.

Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines and harboring dad-aged celebrity crushes. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.

Stream The Paramedic on Netflix

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