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Paris. 1830. In the heart of the town, Vidocq, a famous detective, disappeared as he fights the Alchemist, an assassin that he has been pursuing for a few months. His young biographer, Etienne Boisset, decides to have revenge on Vidocq's death and takes the investigation on... Written by
It takes place in 1830 in Paris. Vidocq is the name of the main character who's based on an actual French historical figure that's considered one of the pioneers of scientific police (think CSI). He's played by probably the most famous French actor living today: Gérard Depardieu. Rather originally, the title character dies in the first 5 minutes of the film. The rest of the story alternates between the investigation of a journalist retracing Vidocq's steps and flashbacks of Vidocq's last case. The original screenplay was written by best-selling French mystery writer, Jean-Christophe Grangé. It was his first original screenplay, and he says it will be his last, and not because he wasn't happy with it. This last case of Vidocq involves the murder of notables by lightning strike. The journalist's investigation takes us from person to person in a rather linear fashion. The investigation itself is not particularly gripping, but there are a couple of big twists at the end. The "bad guy" sports a very cool mirror mask. The fantastical elements originate from the mirror mask person, not everything is real or scientifically explained.
The special effects in general, with a couple of exceptions, are pretty well done, particularly the mask's reflections. It's apparently the first commercial feature film made completely with a digital camera (as opposed to a camera with film). This means that the picture quality, at the time, was crisper than usual, also giving it an unusual look. Lots of work has been done on lighting and colours. The colours are very vivid and favour the colours red, yellow and green. The decors are a mix of real life and digital trickery, they usually look very good and unlike your standard American films. Despite taking place in the 19th century, the editing is modern and very fast, with lots of very quick close-ups. I personally didn't like that style of frenetic cutting because the cuts often seemed unnecessary and made things either less involving or a little harder to assimilate. The characters seemed a bit on the shallow side to me, but then it's more about action, mystery and suspense with a touch of fantastical. Vidocq was compared to the film Seven but in 1830. It's nowhere near as good in any regard, except perhaps for visual style, very different anyway.
The director, Pitof, was a special effects supervisor for most of his career (City of Lost Children, Alien IV) and his following project was directing the infamous Catwoman. It's likely he got that job because of Vidocq. I find that the director Pitof is not very good at telling a story, has trouble with pacing and making us care about the characters. Vidocq is worth renting (or buying cheap) for the spiffy visuals alone. Overall, the movie is not bad but not memorable either. It's likely that a more talented director (Burton, Fincher, Jeunet, etc) with the same material could have done a lot better.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Good) P.S. There are no portals, dark or otherwise.
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