Netflix's New Spanish Action Movie 'Below Zero' Is a Brutal, Cold-Blooded Thriller

A prison transport van is under siege in the latest foreign language hit for the streamer.


Whether it’s The Fugitive, Con Air, or Fast Five, prisoner transportation might be the task with the worst success-to-failure ratio in all of action movie-dom. Any time a group of incarcerated individuals get placed in a large vehicle (the more box-like and state-of-the-art the better), you can guarantee something unbearably tense is about to go down. Below Zero, the latest foreign language title to climb to the top of Netflix’s Top 10 chart, is a particularly gruesome example of what the “transfer-gone-wrong” genre has to offer, a close-quarters thriller that works best when it keeps its characters confined to the tightest possible space. 

Though the title evokes chilly images of snow-filled forests and icy highways, most of the action here, especially in the first half, takes place in the back of the van. After an opening death-by-burial, establishing the movie’s bleak and foreboding tone, director Lluís Quílez introduces Martin (Javier Gutiérrez), a police officer tasked with working alongside a new partner, Montesinos (Isak Férriz), to oversee a “high-risk transfer” involving the deadly head of a Romanian gang. (“You’ll freeze your balls off,” warns a supervisor.) The other prisoners include an older con-man concealing a lock pick, a businessman doing time for financial crimes, and a few younger guys who spend most of the time yelling back and forth at each other from their cells. When a siege breaks out, it’s not exactly clear who called it in or what the mysterious attacker wants.The ambiguity drives the plot from one suspense sequence to the next. Like an upstanding lawman in a Western, Martin finds himself both facing off with, protecting, and occasionally collaborating with the men he’s overseeing. Circumstances dictate behavior; animosity freezes into trust as the situation intensifies; desperation leads to unlikely alliances. Some of the movie’s set pieces, like a terrifying scene where a prisoner gets burned alive in his cell or a gripping underwater race for freedom, are carefully engineered and executed. Others, like a shoot-out outside the vehicle, feel a bit more slapdash and convoluted. 

A movie like Below Zero, where the plot melts beneath your feet as the story progresses, is most entertaining when it’s constantly switching up the dynamics between the increasingly put-upon characters. By the end, you can feel the script, co-written by Quílez and Fernando Navarro, settling into more conventional revenge-movie territory, and the story hits a snow bank it can’t quite muscle its way through. The nuanced insights about duty and honor, teased out through Martin’s interactions with the other men, get pushed aside in favor of brutal violence and grim descriptions of sexual assault. You realize you’re watching another tale of vengeance, one that’s cleverly disguised itself with a thick coat and a pair of gloves.Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.


Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.