Money Heist, more elegantly titled La Casa de Papel in the original Spanish, is Netflix‘s most popular non-English language series, but is bafflingly under-appreciated in the UK and US. When I first watched it I had the feeling of discovering some little-known indie film, because nobody else had heard of it. Then I would look up the stars and discover they had 10million followers on Instagram.
This wasn’t just Anglophone arrogance. The default setting was a dreadful English-language dub, rather than subtitles. If you chanced upon it you would think it was stilted trash, rather than what it is: the silkiest, most perfectly constructed trash on TV. A master criminal called The Professor (Álvaro Morte) assembled a team of eight master criminals to take over the Royal Mint in Spain, dressed in red jumpsuits with Dali masks. They named themselves after international cities: there was Rio (Miguel Herrán), an IT whizz, Nairobi (Alba Flores), a forger, Moscow (Paco Tous), an former miner turned criminal, etc. Once inside, they could print money for as long as they can hold out against the police, their hostages and their own internal strife.
The series was as slickly executed as the heist. It had everything a heist needs: wild ingenuity, loveable rogues and a clear sense of physical geography. Except for The Professor, the gang were inside, surrounded by the cops. It was a post-crash thriller, with a Robin Hood moral angle. Not only were we rooting for them, but they might actually be the good guys. Flashbacks gave context to the gang’s travails as they played cat and mouse with the police, led by Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño). Each revealed hidden depths, especially the psychopathic aesthete Berlin (Pedro Alonso). It was nonsense, but very enjoyable.
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