"I'll Crush Y'all" (2023) [Festival de Cannes' Marché du Film]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Spanish action flick I’ll Crush Y’all (Os Reviento) from JAR Producciones and Kike Narcea. 
(Note: We watched an English dub version of the film.)

Gabriel (Mario Mayo) is a former boxer who lives in a village removed from the city with his father and his dog, Pepe. Everyone knows him by the nickname of Tarado, which he earned in his days as a boxer and, although he could still box, he prefers to lead a quiet life away from everything that led him to spend a few years in prison. But old ghosts always come back, and Tarado will have to deal with the situation the way he knows best: fight.

The Good
Joseph: There are action films that are seriously deadly about people beating each other to death or at least to a pulp, action comedies with a more cartoonish or absurd approach to those same ends, and then there are films such as I’ll Crush Y’all, which feature the hard-fought battles of the first with some dark humor but not full-on comedy. Writer/director Narcea’s feature is a high-octane, entertaining thrill ride that features a likable enough protagonist — Gabriel truly wants to put his criminal past behind him and seems like an affable sort — who finds himself in quite the pickle after his father Tino’s (Antonio Mayans) death, thanks to a bag of money in their rural home that different sorts of baddies all want. Gabriel liked the wild sort of women in his past, and two such ladies — wild member of a gang family Sandra (Ana Marquez) and slingshot-slinging ex-girlfriend Mónica (Rut Santamaría) — show up to complicate matters. Mayo makes for a solid lead, and Narcea gives him plenty to do, including using some original improvised weapons to ward off the villains, if at least temporarily. The supporting cast members — there are practically enough characters here to rival the number in the average Shakespeare play —  all give fine turns, and even the most quickly to be disposed of get a decent amount of screen time before their demise, rather than being just generic objects of punishment.

Mike: Sometimes you just need a good knock-down, drag-out battle between some good guys and bad guys and thankfully I’ll Crush Y’all came along when it did because it’s just what I needed;  Narcea, who directed and wrote the film, offers up a nice and simple story that avoids being too cliche’ thanks to a couple of clever additions to a “bad guys want their MacGuffin back” plot line.  This affords the viewer of just being able to enjoy the action as it unspools without worrying too much about the “whos” and “whys” of everything. 
Narcea also spices the affair up with some well-placed comedic bits, some more overt than others and some much darker than the rest, but all landing pretty solidly (although, as always, your mileage may vary with humor).
While I had some issues with the voice acting (see below),  the acting insofar as the physicality goes was quite good.  From well timed raised eyebrows, to casual asides, to the actual execution of the fighting, everyone did an excellent job (speaking of which, kudos to the choreography team involved who managed to give us doses of Jackie Chan, John Woo, and the Bourne films mixed together in a fun mix of action styles.

The Bad
Joseph: My main quibble is something that most modern action movies share: It’s all a buildup with a hero seemingly incapable of being defeated in fights and/or gunplay leading up to a final boss battle — though Narcea does throw in some different ideas in this department. But really, if viewers have an issue with that trope, they probably aren’t, by choice, watching many action movies in the first place. Also, we are introduced to a few significant characters in the third act — though we have heard about the main two in question earlier — so our emotional investment in their outcome is far less than that of Gabriel. Neither of these points do much to lessen the overall impact of the film for me, though.

Mike: While it’s a problem for a lot of action flicks, I’ll Crush Y’All suffers from its lead character being a bit of a Mary Sue (or in our case here, a Marty Stu) and there’s nothing really wrong with that IF we’ve been given reason to believe it could be possible.  With Gabriel having a background in boxing, it’s quite amazing he’s so good at close quarters hand-to-hand combat as well as having the aim and prowess with projectile weapons as if he stepped right out of a “gun fu” movie. If he were, say, a former soldier or police officer I wouldn’t have questioned his skills at all.
I also found some of the voice acting a little off-putting.  Of course, dubbing is a double (dubble?) edged sword when it comes to action flicks.  While it’s generally preferable to hear the native language of the film, trying to read subtitles AND follow some good hand-to-hand combat can be a tricky chore not easily mastered. For that reason I wish some filmmakers would put a little more effort into the casting for the dubs.

The Verdict
Joseph: I find I'll Crush Y'All to be a fun, escapist thrill ride that’s easy to get lost in. There’s plenty of hand-to-hand combat, gunplay, and other action, and the story has a nice amount of weight to it, with just the right amount of absurdity. The characters are amusing, and even the villains can bring smiles to viewers’ faces. Spain may not be known for its action movies, but Narcea’s film is a highly watchable genre film effort that may be the catalyst to change that. 

Mike: Don’t let my issues with the voice acting deter you, I’ll Crush Y’all is a rockin’ good time with plenty of action and well placed (yet a tempered amount of) comedy all executed almost perfectly by the cast.  Kike Narcea has taken a fairly standard plot and infused it with enough originality to keep things simple yet engaging which allows the audience to sit back and enjoy the performances as our protagonist Gabriel attempts to keep the promise made by the film’s title.

Black Mandala launches
I'll Crush Y'All at Festival de Cannes' Marché du Film, which takes place May 14–22, 2024. 

I’ll Crush Y’all
Directed By: Kike Narcea
Written By: Kike Narcea
Starring: Mario Mayo, Diego París, Fabia Castro
Run Time: 1h 32m
Rating: NR
Release Date: September 24, 2023 (United States)