Arón Piper, María Pedraza and Luis Tosar star in this film set in Marbella. SUR

The Courier: a film about the real estate 'boom' and corruption in Marbella unexpectedly tops the Netflix chart worldwide

After its success in the cinema theatres it has become the most watched non-English language film on the streaming platform, although it is not yet available in Spain

Francisco Griñán


Tuesday, 21 May 2024, 12:47

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When it premiered last January, it was already the highest-grossing film and the first hit of the year for Spanish cinema. The Courier (El Correo) has grossed 1.6 million euros and pulled in nearly a quarter of a million cinema-goers. Those numbers pale into insignificance with its arrival on Netflix, where in its first three days it has accumulated 7.5 million viewers to become the most-watched, non-English language film on the streaming platform worldwide. The main plot revolves around the real estate boom and corruption in Marbella in the early years of the 21st century, featuring Luis Tosar in the cast. It is a fast-paced thriller with political overtones. An expected success in Spanish cinemas due to the popularity of the plot, but a wholly unexpected international blockbuster, with the adept and over-the-top action film-maker Daniel Calparsoro behind it. However, here in Spain it will still take a few days more to reach the small screen.

Arón Piper and Nourdin Batan, in a scene shot under the iconic Marbella arch.
Arón Piper and Nourdin Batan, in a scene shot under the iconic Marbella arch. SUR

"The Costa del Sol is a f*cking paradise and we also know that nobody enters paradise without San Pedro's permission", says the young and gifted criminal played by Arón Piper to his sidekick played by Tosar as they get into the real estate business in Marbella in the boom times before Operation Malaya kicked in (the major police anti-corruption campaign) when commissions were growing as fast as construction cranes were popping up. Under the slogan 'based on real events', the film tells the story of a smart, young guy from Vallecas who becomes a courier of dirty money, assisting with its timely laundering before being passed to tax havens.

With a touch of critical humour and his good nose for a thriller, in The Courier Daniel Calparsoro (known for his hit films Salto al Vacío and Hasta el Cielo) hones in on the rise to the top of the corruption ladder of an absolute nobody. Calparsoro does not shy away from making references to real characters from press reports and the ensuing court cases, such as Marbella's town planning councillor played by José Manuel Poga (also in El Cuerpo en Llamas and La Casa de Papel). Poga's character becomes the procurer of land being reclassified to urban so that all the dirty money is converted into urban development investments that, once sold, whitewashes the illegal income. This setting of luxury mixed with crime rings bells with the recent series simply called Marbella (Movistar+) and that of Los Farad (Prime Vídeo). All three have brought to the small screen this whole era during which corruption and organised crime blatantly co-existed on Malaga's coast.

Also starring Luis Zahera

Filmed in the spring of 2023 on the Costa del Sol, El Correo takes advantage of a multinational setting with locations in Madrid, Geneva and Brussels, although the settings that really shine on screen are those of Marbella, with such iconic and recognisable places as the entrance arch to the town or the legendary Golden Mile, used as the scene for the exchange of a briefcase full of dirty money. Neither do they miss out on making use of Malaga's star property as backdrop, the elegant Huerta del Conde de Pinares de San Antón estate. In this film it plays the select setting for a party at which the main characters talk about the reclassification of golf courses and undeveloped land - the kind of talk that leads to offers that cannot be refused when envelopes pass between hands or there is a bank transfer to some offshore tax haven.

Luis Zahera plays a policeman following the trail of corruption.
Luis Zahera plays a policeman following the trail of corruption. SUR

Produced by Vaca Films and distributed by Universal Pictures, the film's cast also includes María Pedraza, an actress often seen in Malaga who recently appeared in the series Toy Boy and Urban. Others include Nourdin Batan (Todos los Nombres de Dios and La Unidad) and Laura Sépul (Into the Night and Enemigo Público). Finally, one of the indispensable faces in our dream cast for such thrillers: Luis Zahera (As Bestas and Entrevías), here playing the uncompromising policeman hot on the heels of this gang of luxury criminals.

José Manuel Poga, Arón Piper and Nourdin Batan, in a scene shot in Huerta del Conde.
José Manuel Poga, Arón Piper and Nourdin Batan, in a scene shot in Huerta del Conde. SUR

Although Netflix has acquired the international rights to this film and it has become an unexpected success, in Spain we will still have to wait a few days to see it on the small screen, as Movistar+ has the exclusive rights for Spain, releasing The Courier on its platform on Friday 24 May.

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