Saturday, December 06, 2008

RIVALS / LES LIENS DU SANG - entirely predictable French "thriller"

And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this timeWriter-director Jacques Maillot recreates 1970s France in scrupulous detail in his new thriller LES LIENS DU SANG (mis-leadingly translated for its English release as RIVALS). The costumes, hair-styles, props, cars, cigarettes, music - you simply cannot fault the achievement of the production team. The problem is that while this movie is based on the true story of two brothers - one a cop, one a murderer - it lacks any narrative momentum or emotional engagement. François Cluzet plays Gaby - the errant elder brother to Guillaume Canet's straight-laced younger brother, François. Even though he disapproves of Gaby's lifestyle, François helps him get a job and a place to stay when he's released from prison. At first it seems as though Gaby will turn his life around, but the petty frustrations of life lead him back into high stakes crime. Accordingly, the denouement sees a predictable clash between the cop and the pimp. The key point about this film is that it isn't some big-budget slick police thriller pitting two rivals against each other in the manner of THE DEPARTED. It's small scale in the best sense - focusing on the banal reality of staking out prostitutes in small towns. The problem is that having taken such an approach you have to work even harder to gain and keep the audience's attention, and I just don't think this slow-paced, predictable film ever succeeds. As good as these actors are, the characters are all two-dimensional cliches. As a result, the denouement simply doesn't pack the required emotional punch.

LES LIENS DU SANG was released in Belgium and France in February and is currently on release in the UK as RIVALS.

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