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Dris is an ex-con, living in the borderline between a decent and a criminal life. He has a regular and simple work and lives a simple life with his wife Lise and loves his family. However, his childhood friends from his Arab community, including his best friend Yanis, are mobsters and his brother is a small time delinquent. Yanis tries to bring Dris back to his gang, and uses his former lover Nina to seduce him, taking him to expensive places to feel the importance of big money. Dris fights against the temptation, but an event will route him back to Yanis' gang and in a fight between gangs with tragic consequences for the whole community. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ex-convict tries to break from his family gangster past
"La Mentale" or "The Code" is a decent, quite solid, neo noir gangster movie. Its elements are familiar, but the differences here are an emphasis on the mixed Arab-French composition of the gangster family and the character differences between the two cousins who are the principals.
The basic story is that an ex-con has come out of jail after 4 years. He wants to go straight but his cousin, still a gangster, is pulling him back. The pulls are several. There is a big heist being planned. The ex-con's younger brother is getting involved in drug selling. There is an old friend whose night club is being moved in on by a big gangster. Plus there is an old flame, a gypsy lady.
"The Code" features very good casting for all the parts. This helps a great deal, as all the parts hold up well. This includes the middle-aged king pins down to the young turks who think they know it all.
The main things that mar the film are weakness in building the character of the ex-convict and some inadequate staging in the film's shootout and last scenes. The script has the ex-con as being rather a weak character at times, sometimes hot-headed, sometimes very naive considering his background, and sometimes throwing caution to the winds. His lack of judgment and prudence makes it very hard to identify with him. The script just didn't get its act together on his motivations, and the actor was not strong enough really to overcome that.
We know how gangster movies turn out, and this one is no exception. It's the ride along the way and the scenery that matter. This one is a plus for fans of gangster movies.
The film ends up being rather average, which is too bad because with a better take on the ex-con's character, it could have been much stronger.
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