The Paramedic is the gleeful, glorious pulp-trash the world needs right now.
New Spanish-language thriller The Paramedic wastes no time in establishing its title character, Angel (Mario Casas), as an unrepentant scumbag. Within the course of five minutes, he is seen stealing from his clients and hocking the goods for money, using illegal narcotics on the job, soullessly bedding his girlfriend Vanessa (Déborah François) with borderline violent abandon, and wiping dog shit on the doorstep of a neighbor. (Director Carles Torras exhibits a modicum of restraint in establishing this vile character by at least stopping short of having him run over a small child and cackling with sadistic glee.) Angel’s life takes a startling turn, however, when a freak accident on the job results in him being paralyzed from the waist down.
Those expecting an uplifting tale of a man’s redemptive arc by way of personal tragedy should look elsewhere, as The Paramedic has no interest in humanizing the black hole at the cord. If anything, Angel’s paralysis calls out his worst traits, amplifying them to the point of pulp absurdity. It’s a refreshing genre pivot, taking on the cinematic tendency to facilely sanctify its handicapped characters. It’s a kind of shorthand that is deeply insulting, not only serving to define these persons solely by their disability, but failing to allow them any sort of dimension or nuance in the process. That’s not to say that Angel exactly qualifies as a fleshed-out character — indeed, he’s a one-note monster, enacting a vicious revenge scheme once Vanessa leaves him after the discovery of spyware on her cell phone (of course, placed there by Angel himself).
The Paramedic excels when upending the conventions of the average “overcoming tragedy” genre flick. Angel continues his grueling physical therapy and comes to accept his disability not as a way to better himself, but as a free pass to kidnap and hold hostage his ex-girlfriend, twistedly fashioning a life he believes he is due. It’s a clever twist, one that would make ‘80s-era Pedro Almodóvar proud, and, in fact, feels like one of his early films stripped of all visual aplomb and arty pretension. The Paramedic is glorious, unapologetic trash, but Torras is assuredly in on the camp, peppering his film with all sorts of winking details. It’s the kind of movie where its lead character is shown wearing a t-shirt featuring the precise breed of dog that he has just murdered in the previous scene. In another illustrative scene, when Angel tells his girlfriend to put on the special dress he bought for her, she emerges wearing the hooker outfit from Pretty Woman.
The final set piece, which involves an incapacitated Angel and Vanessa, is especially ingenious, as is the absolute stinger of an ending. There are some moments — such as a scene where Angel is seen spying on Vanessa in the back of a cab while the radio blares info about a deadly new virus that originated in Wuhan, China — that are tough to parse for intent. Why the film makes a point of establishing the date for this particular event (January 2, 2020), only to completely ignore its inclusion in all other regards, is entirely unclear, but the bonkers stupidity and anarchic spirit somehow still mesh with the larger product. This bit of specificity also works to establish the proper lens through which to view The Paramedic. In many ways, it’s exactly the film the world needs right now: entirely disposable fun, delivered with glee and gusto.
(Side note: The Paramedic will automatically start for North American subscribers with an absolutely atrocious English-dubbed soundtrack. Do yourself a favor — manually change the audio to its original European Spanish and pop on the subtitles.)
You can currently stream Carles Torras’ The Parademic on Netflix.