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The charismatic criminal Dobermann, who got his first gun when he was christened, leads a gang of brutal robbers. After a complex and brutal bank robbery, they are being hunted by the Paris police. The hunt is led by the sadistic cop Christini, who only has one goal: to catch Dobermann at any cost. Written by
Michael Soderberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A psychotic police detective (Tchéky Karyo) pursues a gang of armed robbers led by the ultra-charismatic 'Dobermann' (Vincent Cassel).
A colossal one-fingered salute to the bland, homogenised pap dominating international cinema at the time of its release, DOBERMANN not only set debut director Jan Kounen on the road to cinematic glory, it also helped kickstart an aggressive upsurge in ultra-commercial European cinema (the "Taxi" series, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, CRIMSON RIVERS, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, etc.), begun two years earlier by Mathieu Kassovitz's equally subversive LA HAINE (1995). Fans of political correctness need not apply: DOBERMANN is loud, excessive, obnoxious and morally ambiguous in equal measure, and while some viewers may be unable to reconcile themselves to the action and violence of Kounen's raucous worldview, others should cling onto their seats and prepare for the ride of a lifetime...
As the above plot synopsis attests, Kounen and scriptwriter Joël Houssin (upon whose pulp novels the film is based) have stripped the plot down to its barest essentials and constructed a series of instantly recognisable character-types (saint, sinner, braggart, dimwit, etc.), thereby liberating Kounen to indulge his true objectives: To push the boundaries of cinema to their absolute limits. DOBERMANN is a swirling tornado of audiovisual delights which unfolds via shock cuts, hurtling camera-work, loud explosions and in-yer-face action set-pieces, a heady mixture of Hollywood gloss and Hong Kong stuntwork ramped to the max. You want subtle? Try Merchant Ivory. THIS movie wants to gouge your eyes out!!
The cast is toplined by French superstars Cassel and Monica Bellucci (they married in 1999), playing the antihero and his ultra-loyal partner in crime, and they both manage to carve a niche amidst the film's visual excesses, while Dobermann's misfit gang includes Stéphane Metzger (TRANSFIXED) as a beautiful drag queen who supports his loving, unsuspecting wife and family via prostitution. But the movie is stolen clean away by Karyo as the deranged cop on Dobermann's tail, an irredeemable psycho who's prepared to break every rule - legal and moral - to bring his nemesis to book. However, the audience's loyalties are tested when one of Dobermann's gang (the 'good' guys) shoots an inexperienced rookie cop for no other reason than he happens to be within range during a bank robbery, an incident which pegs the characters as dispensable lowlife scum. But this outrage is balanced by a subsequent scene in which Karyo (the 'bad' guy) invades a birthday party and forces Metzger to betray Dobermann's whereabouts by threatening the younger man's newborn child, before revealing Metzger's drag queen alter ego to his horrified, clueless family. Though the scene is cruel and uncompromising, Kounen isn't interested in queer-bashing a sympathetic character, merely demonstrating the moral corruption of Karyo's villainous detective; the drag queen is written and played with quiet dignity, and Metzger's 'fate' for betraying Dobermann under duress is both amusing and redemptive...
Houssin's scenario builds to a frenzied showdown in a fancy nightclub, where Dobermann's gang defend themselves against an army of gun-toting police officers, and Karyo finally confronts his mortal enemy, culminating in an explosion of horrific violence. You have been warned! In fact, the script's antisocial attitude is perhaps a little TOO crude and excessive in places, but the director signals his intentions late in the film when a drug-addled gangster goes to the toilet and uses pages from 'Cahiers du Cinema' to, er... clean up after himself (if you catch my drift)! Tired of adhering to the established confines of critical acceptability, Kounen and his production team have fashioned an instant cult classic, one which defies convention and spits in the face of diplomacy. Acting and technical credits are top-notch throughout.
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