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Coming out from jail, Lucas has decided to change his life and behave like a good citizen. But when he is taken hostage in a bank by a hare-brained robber, no cops can believe he is not part of this action. Written by
Jean-Marie Berthiaume <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A touching and beautiful conclusion to Veber's "Depardieu/Richard" trilogy ...
"The Fugitives" marks Francis Veber's last collaboration with the Pierre Richard Gérard Depardieu duo and the last opus of an unofficial trilogy that started with "The Goat". For information, the second one, "ComDads" earned a César nomination for Gérard Depardieu in the Best Actor category and one for Veber for Best Screenplay. "The Fugitives"'s screenplay was also César-nominated, so was the performance of Jean Carmet for Best Supporting Actor, and if not better than "The Goat", the film beautifully concludes the misadventures of the oddest yet most defining duos of French Comedy.
Indeed, the 60's had Louis de Funès and Bourvil, the hot-tempered middle-aged man and the lovable idiot, the 80's would have Pierre Richard and Gérard Depardieu, the likable loser and the no-nonsense tough guy, a formula that proved to be successful in the three movies. The word 'formula' is less meant to diminish Veber 's creativity than to highlight his writing talent, as he builds similar plots from totally different situations and manage to make something fresh out of a usual comical material, which mostly relies on the opposition between the two leads leading to some chaotic situations, but it's only from Veber's chaos that something positive can finally rise.
In the first two movies, Depardieu and Richard were hired to look for someone who disappeared, the unlucky daughter of a rich businessman, the runaway son of an ex-youth's love, and at the end a very precious lesson about life and acceptance predominated the resolution of the plot. In "The Fugitives", the plot begins with a more dramatic tone. Depardieu plays Lucas, an ex-bank robber released from jail after a five-year sentence and Richard is François Pignon, an unemployed widower, and the father of a 6-year old little daughter, pushed by circumstances to accomplish one of the most pathetic bank robberies that ever disgraced the silver screen, so he can get the money to flee, otherwise his sickly daughter Jeanne, would be put in an orphan. There is a strange and cleverly written parallel between Lucas and Pignon, one is an ex-criminal who wants to go straight while the other, although well-intentioned, becomes a criminal. Talk about a perfect timing to meet each other.
Indeed, the plot reveals its clever intricacy when Pignon decides to take one hostage and of course, his eyes go immediately to Lucas who only came to open an account and put the money he got from selling his gold watch. Right before the robbery, we see Lucas harassed by the Police Chief who counts on another arrest for his promotion, but Depardieu, with a remarkable talent, beautifully embodies the sincerity of a man who wants to get straight and means it. So when he's chosen as the hostage, aware of the confusion it will place in the Chief's mind, he gently whispers "can't you take another?" Of course, there would have been no story if Pignon followed his advice. Naturally, Pignon disobeys and what comes next confirms Lucas' fears as he's forced to play the robber for his own safety. Accidentally shooting at his leg when they try to escape, Pignon puts the ill-fated Lucas in a situation where he will have to depend on him for a while. The story takes off.
Pignon sends Lucas to Jean Carmet; a doctor who happens to be more competent with animals, one of the film's best moments when he talks to him as if he was a dog (probably lost in translation, because the word for 'bullet' is the same as 'ball') However, the middle act of the film strikes by a certain dryness of gags, and a storyline getting more serious and more pathetic. The name 'Pignon' doesn't epitomize the idea of the lovable loser that would become a character's trademark in most Veber movies, this time, the film is borderline a poignant drama. But while Pignon struggles to get the papers and ask for a corrupt individual named Lahbib to help him, another storyline develops in a slow but beautiful way. Lucas lies in the doctor's bed and Jeanne takes care of film, she doesn't speak a word since her mother died. Lucas' contempt for Pignon is constant during the two thirds of the film but it's compensated by the growing fondness he has on Jeanne. The little girl is convincing in the role of a sad wounded heart and plays as the perfect 'third' emotional link for the duo.
And it's not surprising that she would play a very pivotal role in the evolution of Lucas and Pignon's, friendlier in what seems to be a farewell scene, beautifully written by Francis Veber. She found a great fatherly figure in Lucas, possessing whatever is lacking in his father, and she can imagine having a future with both of them. Maybe the film suffers from too much emotionality that distracts from its original comedic purpose and I might agree with that, except that "The Fugitives" totally redeems itself in the last twenty minutes. The final act of "The Fugitives" is on the same level of comedic genius as "The Goat", even better sometimes, in fact, it gets funnier one scene after another with a level of slapstick and comedy of situation you wouldn't have expected after such a dramatic set-up. Maybe the film got too emotional at some parts, but the pay-off was worth it. And at least, it didn't forget to be a comedy.
"The Fugitives" is the cinematic proof that the effect a film can have on you mostly depends on the last part, that's why it should be judged till the end to be properly judged, and at the end, it's impossible to resist to this trio, this good-hearted bear, this funny-looking clown and this adorable little girl. The film beautifully balance between laughs and emotion until a magnificent finale transcended by Wladimir Cosma's score, one of his best, while we see the duo disappearing in the landscape, for the last time.
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