Star: Daniel Auteuil
, Gerard Depardieu
, Valeria Golino
, Roschdy Zem
This very impressive, twistily-scripted French film, reunited Depardieu and Auteiul, who butted heads (or humps) in the classic, Jean De Florette. The roles are largely reversed here, with Auteiul as honorable cop Leo Vrinks, getting his life screwed over by the alcoholic Denis Klein (Depardieu). The two go head-to-head over an upcoming promotion: the man in charge tells them whichever man catches a gang of armed robbers will get the position. Vrinks is promised information on the criminals, but the man offering it (Zem) turns him into an accomplice to murder. When Vrinks finds out - after his blundering has turned a stake-out operation into a disaster - it gives him leverage to bring his rival down, and he does so with vengeance. This takes the two men's careers, which have largely run parallel to that point, and sends them on sharply divergent paths. But, without wishing to give away too much, karma, c'est une biche, and if you don't suffer for what you do, you might just suffer for what you didn't.
You want grizzled, go for France: there's a whole generation of actors, not just these two, but you can throw in Tcheky Karyo and Jean Reno too: someone should get all four and do Les Expendables. But the two we have here do an excellent job: it has the feel of a heroic bloodshed film in some ways, particularly toward the end, as Vrinks gets tooled up, and prepares to unleash righteous revenge on his nemesis. There's some questions which are not really answered - some of Klein's actions are imperfectly explained - but given the murky and uncertain world in which he operates, that's not much of a surprise. The obvious touchstone would be Heat, but this seemed a lot more grounded [though it has been a long time since I've seen Heat], and also balanced: Klein may be the 'bad guy', but it's far from black-and-white. Interesting to note that director Marchal used to be a cop, which may help explain why so much of this has a strong air of plausibility. Definitely recommended.
[The DVD was released on June 14th by Tartan Palisades. It's widescreen, with extra features including a making-of featurette and interview with the director. For more information, visit the Tartan Palisades website.]