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Interesting polar / "dark thriller", if a bit untidy.
Anything with this great French actors, (and so young!) Lhermitte, Brasseur, Genest, Kaprisky, Lambert, Clavier and of course Aumont cannot fail, but doesn't necessarily have to succeed either.
After reading the title and reading the synopsis you may legitimately think this is a French Charles Bronson/ Van Damme/ ..., a regular guy driven by the massacre of his family to avenge them single mindedly.
Claude Brasseur being an unusual thug would only add some twist to an already too familiar formula. But French cinema always surprises us, this is not an European version of Cobra (remember, Sylvester Stalone) who fights the system in a Nietzschean, nihilistic way. Point of fact, he seems to be rather lost during this confusing movie, but that's due to a midbrow plot. He's of course very likable, thou, as he always is.
Following the genre's rules, we see a seedy Deauville, a gay bar called "the system" directed by Eddy, a classic psychopath who manipulates even his sister without flinching and who of course feels no empathy, and some glimpses to Véronique Genest's sculptural body and her singing . A customer even thinks she's a travesty :)! Eddy has only 2 faithful acolytes, the most remarkable is of course Jockey, the "sensitive one" of the two.
Everybody looks very young, the late 70s music, ambiance, decoration, hairdos (!), it only increases our feeling of "estrangement" to this unusual "big production" French movie, but that's probably not willing by the authors, just the result of them having chosen very "modern" topics and aesthetics, that of course faded fast as they grew.
What didn't wane was the rise of the far right, and French fears of it. Witness the preponderance given in this film to the group against the abolition of death penalty, a civil militia that during most of the movie talks a lot but does little. Well, they have small social gatherings, they scorn the regular police and judiciary system for being too easy on criminals (sounds familiar :)?) but it seems just a gropuscule driven by the pedophile Philippe Miller, who has his beautiful niece "Nadine" as his lover at home, is a control freak with her in public, even shows her in a bath gown to bereaving Modot.
It doesn't take much brains to figure out director Serge Leroy is making a point against the rise of the far right, as IMDb reviewer "dumonteil" so aptly writes, as always. On his review: "Leroy offends people even if he does not mean to do it". ... I'd only have liked the director being less gross. Less , well, trite.
The police fare no better, of course. Aumont plays against character, a corrupt sergeant who leads a "tired feet" policy, obviously has his own private agenda. He's got only a lonely sidekick, inspector Carducci (some day somebody will write about why the baddies, the corrupt, the coward, have Italian surnames in French movies :) ).
So we have the usual ingredients: "the world is cruel, life has no meaning (Eddy says it in the beginning of the movie), even the song's punkish lyrics 'make no sense' (sic), brainless criminals can take away what's most valued to you, your family, in a split second, the police will do nothing, or worse, will work against you and, this is the originality of the movie, the presence of this mysterious far right group, that even the cops call Nazis. Of course, nothing can be so grim and still be a major production, so we have inspector Paul Gouvion as a "lonely honest cop" in this ocean of police turpitude.
But nothing acts really as we expect it. Neither the "good cop" really does much, nor the "bad chief cop" is really all that bad, the female interest (Lucie) has only playing flippers and pool as her main "vice" (no sex, not even alcohol, in fact her tantrums look like a teenager's -of that time- rather than a thug's sister's). Brasseur's father easily convinces him that it's no good trying to kill those who destroyed you, "it's not the kind of education we gave you". Lucie has to instruct Martin how to escape the big husky thug that was about to dispose of him, and later she's the man when dealing with also physically imposing Jockey (Lambert).
If "the system" is just the name of a gay bar, and 3 criminals without much talent can kill with a machine gun on a busy train station, you may expect this film to be a 80sh version of "Falling Down" (the M. Douglas film in which a regular white collar worker finally snaps, due to 'the senseless and violence of urban life' or something like this).
Just don't expect clear cut conclusions and political correctness, and you may enjoy this film, let alone the many sociological notes hidden in the regular plot. Like (I'll only name one, you will spot others) the way people of a "midsized French city" have fun and cherish family, totally different than the classic Parisian elite we regularly have on standard French *(and American) films on "the French".
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