Philippe Le Guay's Night Shift/Trois Huit isn't an easy sell - workplace bullying in a French bottling factory - but it's a surprisingly powerful film, not least because of an astonishing performance by Marc Barbé as the would-be Alpha Male on the night shift who takes on Gérald Laroche's slightly fey nice guy, who seems living proof of Lenny Bruce's old line about liberals being able to understand everything except people who hate them. What's particularly intriguing is the hot-and-cold nature of their relationship: one minute Barbé is marking his territory to exclude him, the next opening up to him and desperate to be included, leaving the impression that his actions are not so much calculated (even when he's winning over Laroche's son after publicly humiliating the father) as an impulsive reflection of Barbé's confused mixture of envy and anger. But it's precisely because you don't know which way he's going to turn that he's such a memorably screwed-up villain.
His victim's reactions aren't so easy to peg either, his desire to just get along often fuelling the problem as much as his refusal to return violence with violence (at least to his tormentor) or to take matters up with management gives his tormentor carte blanche to continue to undermine him. Both offer very flawed versions of masculinity - the new man versus the cool cro-Magnon - in a satisfying drama that leaves you wondering some time after its over. It's just a pity that casting directors haven't made good use of Barbé's talents since.
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