Below Zero

Movie review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
Below Zero Movie Poster Image
Gory but fun thriller has strong violence, language, nudity.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Martin and prisoners show great determination, perseverance, and teamwork getting out of tricky situations.

Positive Role Models

Martin is a good cop and follows the rules. He stands up against further police brutality from his police partner. Ramis and some of the other prisoners show trust, friendship, and teamwork. No diversity.

Violence

Men get punched, kicked, slapped, beaten, bludgeoned, stabbed, and shot. A man hits another man in the head with a shovel and buries him alive. The same man shoots police officers, killing them, while torturing others for information. Faces are bloodied, cut, and bruised. Some prisoners are made to strip, one having to bend over and cough. Police threaten beatings. An older man burns to death in a cell. Another gets stabbed in the hand with a shard of glass. Car crashes, drownings, freezings, bullet wounds, and talk of slitting throats and murder. One man gets his head gruesomely bashed in with the bottom of a fire extinguisher. Another man gets his hand blown off by a shotgun. A very disturbing description of all the suffering one man's 13-year-old daughter went through before being murdered, including multiple rapes, torture, abuse, drugging, and mention of objects like pliers, bottles, and cigarette butts.  

Sex

Full-frontal nudity of a man's not-erect penis. Shirtless men in a locker room. A few romantic kisses. 

Language

Strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "hell," "pr--ks," and "d--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Below Zero is a Spanish thriller about a National Police Corps officer in Spain who must transport a large vehicle moving 6 dangerous inmates to another prison in the dead of night. The film has fun playing with different genres and their conventions and expectations, and there's plenty of fun, tension, thrills, mystery, and violence. Expect a fair amount of gore, death, guns, gunshot wounds, bloody and beaten faces, stabbing, body parts blown off or bashed in, car chases and crashes, drownings, impalement, and a man burning to death. There's also a very-hard-to-listen-to description of the rape, abuse, mutilation, and murder of a 13-year-old girl at the end of the film. Strong language throughout includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "hell," "pr--ks," and "d--k." Full-frontal nudity of a man's not-erect penis. Smoking.

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What's the story?

In BELOW ZERO, police officer Martin (Javier Gutierrez) starts his first day in a new precinct. His first assignment pairs him with an aggressive partner, and they must drive a large prisoner transport van with a small number of inmates to another prison. The problem is they must leave during the dead of night, and it's very, very cold outside. There also seems to be someone after the transport van. Are they friend, foe, both, or neither? Who can Martin trust?  

Is it any good?

There's lots of fun to be had in this violent thriller that twists and turns its way through different genres like suspense, mystery, survival, and horror. Below Zero somehow works either despite all the mashing up of genres or because of it. For instance, the film might first begin with a nod to horror, but then firmly establish a mystery, only to then move into psychological thriller territory, then back for more horror, then transition to a survival kind of thing, then jump back to a reminder of the core mystery, then to a hunter-hunted kind of thing, then back to survival, and so on, before final revelations. This might be the subtle genius of the film, this deft handling of the above and all in one, clear voice and tone. 

While the film unfortunately lacks any representation outside of all the light-skinned Spanish men in this film, the acting is gripping, textured, and easy to slip into watching. Gutierrez's Martin is solidly determined to hold onto his humanity while trying to manage a group of prisoners. And Callejo's Ramis takes over every scene he's in and becomes another kind of heart of the film by the end. Further, each character is thoughtfully sketched out and given bits of background and history that are scattered throughout the banter and dialogue. Alliances are shaped and crossed, expectations of characters are toyed with and thwarted, and Martin can never quite fully know who he can trust. The violence and gore could be a turnoff for some, however, as it comes suddenly and brutally, sometimes without warning.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the violence in Below Zero. Do you think the film could have been as effective as a thriller without the violence? How so? Was any of the violence too much?

  • Do you think the portrayal of the prisoners was well done? What did you like most about the group or cast? What did you like least? In comparison with the police officers in the film, how do the inmates fare? Did you feel their respective representations were realistic? Why or why not? 

  • Would you have done anything differently in any of the situations presented in the movie? In which situations, and what would you have done differently?

  • Do you think "justice was served," by the end of the film? Why or why not?

  • Discuss the mashup of genres in the movie. Do you think this helps or hurts the delivery of the story?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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