Reminder, this is the deeper dive of the ending. Don’t read below unless you’ve already watched the movie (or don’t care about spoilers).
Miguel leads the siege to get vengeance and closure from Nano. Nano and his friend Chino (Alex Monner) horrifically raped and murdered Miguel’s daughter. This means that Miguel is a vigilante wanting to find his own justice as the system failed him.
He says that there was not enough evidence to arrest them and that Nano is going to be out of jail soon enough and he must be punished. However, we have a bit of a problem with this twist: how does Miguel know they are guilty and how his daughter died (since no body was found).
Sure, Chino might have given him the information before Miguel killed him, but how did he know to go after Chino? Why were the two suspects at all? Further, if they were suspected enough to send Miguel on a warpath, why wasn’t there enough evidence to keep investigating?
(This also begs the question of why Miguel attacked a prison bus in such a risky way if Nano was going to be released soon enough?)
The film wants us to consider whether or not the ends justify the means, but we’re never really sure how the ends came to be. Further, while a miscarriage of justice is a tragedy, is correcting it worth the murder of three police officers? What about the murder of several inmates (some who were only guilty of theft and addiction)?
The film indicates that no, this isn’t worth it. We even have Ramis discussing with another inmate Rei (Edgar Vittorino) that Rei’s vengeance on the man who attacked his sister didn’t help her at all. However, the film goes against this when Martin tortures Nano in the last moment once it is revealed that Nano is in fact guilty, which adds another issue.
A more powerful ending would have been Martin saving Nano and stopping Miguel only to learn later (and be powerless) that Nano was in fact guilty. Nano holds his tongue and makes us wonder if he is really guilty up until the last minute, which seems kind of dumb. He basically stops at the one-yard line to gloat for no reason. (Sure, the reason is we get closure as the audience, but this betrays the gritty reality of the film).
All of these little threads lead to the conclusion that Miguel is either the luckiest man alive or has the power of plot necessity to put him where he needs to be.
These problems don’t make the film bad, though they do keep it from being great. Mysteries are brutal to write as the more moving pieces you have (and there are a lot here) the more likely there’s going to be some grinding gears.
I think this would be a great film to workshop because the quality is so high. How to solve these narrative riddles would be an excellent exercise for writers. The film stands on its own merits, but how could it be perfected?