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This gritty police drama shows us the underbelly of the Parisian drug trade. Lulu is a tough streetwise narcotics cop who, like a Frank Serpico or a Dirty Harry Callahan, doesn't play by the rules or kowtow to his weak and/or corrupt superiors. Lulu thrives in this violent world, where sheer guts can overcome his squad's deficiencies of money and equipment. Despite the ruthless environment that he lives and works in every day, he still manages somehow to maintain his humanity. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
If one were to ever question where we, as American audiences, get our prime-time television ideas, it should never be considered original, or genius, or groundbreaking it should be simply coined, "borrowed". As we see popularity with such shows as "The Office" or the most recent "Life on Mars", we seem to be gobbling up popular programs from across the pond at the speed of light, and oddly more and more seem to feel less authentic. Sure, the actual conversations and dynamic dilemmas that occur each episode my be home-grown, but the idea it is the original idea that should be coveted. It would be equal to saying that you love DSL without ever experiencing dial-up how can you compare? Recently, I was able to scrounge around and discover a VHS that may, upon first viewing, seem like a hodgepodge of police interferences within the confines of Paris, but look deeper. Does our heroine, a tough, never by the book-paper pushing detective whom isn't afraid to corrupt the system to get results, a cop who isn't afraid to have a wife, but also a prostitute informant on the side? Wouldn't you agree that perhaps I am explaining the life of Vic Mackey from "The Shield"? Yet, I am not I am talking about Lulu, our Parisian officer in the outstanding "L.627".
Lost within the conversion from VHS to DVD, this obscure title has not seen the light of day for a long time; in fact, you could probably find this at a yard sale for less than a dollar. If this is ever the case, pick it up and buy it it is worth viewing at least once to demonstrate the raw grittiness of police work. It has never been a colorful position, despite the humorous depiction in "Police Academy", and director Bertrand Tavernier knows how to push the envelope to such an extent that our fictional officer's cause affects the reason. They want drug off the streets, Lulu is constantly pushing his girlfriend to stop using drugs, but the means are not readily available. With broken police vehicles, pranksters instead of officers, lacking budget with technology, Lulu and Company are forced to take measures into their own hands. They fight crime, perhaps not the way the officer handbook suggests, but they fight crime. One scene that specifically stands out is one where Lulu is about to bust a dealer/supplier in a nearby park, he uses a nearby school to ensure that they are able to see the transaction take place. They are able to find an empty room, but the principal doesn't want them in the school contradictory to the ideals that schools want drugs off the street. There was this sense of animosity between person and officer as if the principal didn't believe that our officers would actually do anything of value. This was a small, yet shocking scene that defines Tavernier's central theme.
Does Lulu get the drugs off the streets? Does he finally get the funding that he wants? Does his personally life collide with his cop life? These are all questions that Tavernier answers with small, seemingly insignificant scenes. There is a perfect ending scene that resonates within my mind between Lulu and his prostitute sideline. It demonstrates the quality of Lulu's work, and summarizes this film in a small 10-minute scene. That seems to be Tavernier's trademark with this film. A full range of quality small scenes that tie our characters together. Individually, this is a rather bland film difficult to begin and even longer to finish with nearly 2 ½ hours of play time, but intertwined, these scenes speak about the Parisian police force. "L.627" is a film that resonates within the mind. Oddly, I recently finished watching "La Haine" for the first time, and could argue that this is Tavernier's counter-discussion. Here, he shows why there may be police racism, why the law uses brutality, and why frustration between officers reigns supreme. Kassovitz's film gives us the counter-point, the view from the poverty on the streets.
Overall, does "L.627" demand repeat viewing? Is it wronged not to have a DVD release? These are all important questions, but the answer is not readily available. "L.627" demonstrates powerful acting, documentary-esquire camera work, and a chilling theme, but the honesty lies within Tavernier's storytelling. While Lulu is our central character, this isn't a story about him. We don't have an emotional roller-coaster of a film where our hero redeems himself at the end. This isn't a Hollywood movie. In "L.627" social commentary is king, and we, as outsiders looking in, must just absorb the honest nature of the film. It is a tale of good corruption, hard working individuals, and the hardships of control. This will not be a film for everyone, but those privy enough to catch a viewing of this film will be impressed by every element of this film. From the filming to the unequivocal truths, "L.627" is a film to absorb. I am just sorry that I didn't see this film sooner.
Always remember, instead of WWVMD? (aka What Would Vic Mackey Do?) try thinking of WWLD? (aka What Would Lulu Do?).
Grade: **** out of *****
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