In Paris, many citizens go to the precinct after the doors of their apartments have been sprayed with a 4 and the letters "clt". When a dweller is found mysteriously dead in his apartment, Detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his partner Danglard investigate the case and discover that plague may have killed the victim. Meanwhile, in the center of Paris, the former actor Joss Le Guern survives reading advertisements in a square for the public; when he receives weird messages about an outbreak of plague that is coming to Paris, the former professor Hervé Decambrais requests the warnings and goes to the library to research the meaning of the text, where he meets Adamsberg. Together they find that a maniac is killing people using flees contaminated by rats and spreading the disease in the city; without any clue, the police force do not have how to avoid the panic in Paris. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Regis Wargnier's thriller never quite lives up to its potential but still makes for an entertaining mystery set in an increasingly panic stricken modern-day Paris where graffiti on doors - a cross painted in a single brushstroke - and increasingly medieval messages of impending doom delivered via an unemployed actor who's found a niche as self-appointed town crier and living small ads column herald a return of the Black Death to the city. Of course, behind the panic and the first few victims lurks a series of revenge killings made all the harder to solve as the panicking public find themselves unwittingly creating a trail of false leads.
Yet part of the reason it never quite works as well as it could is that while the various suspects - including Michel Serrault's disgraced teacher who is drawn into the investigation - are well drawn, Jose Garcia's investigating detective feels a bit underwritten for too much of the film. The idea of a detective who loses his inspired hunches along with his girlfriend is an interesting one, so why do we only find out that this is behind his own tardiness some two-thirds into the film only for the idea to be promptly dropped? Instead, for much of the film he's defined largely by his inability to remember his colleagues' names. At times it feels like part of a series where we have missed all the earlier episodes establishing his character and are expected to already know all this. It's also a problem that one of the more well-known faces in the supporting cast has so little to do until they become a key part of the narrative or that the motive is revealed via a lengthy flashback sequence. Yet if the film's central character sometimes seems slightly absent from the film even when on screen, the story's intriguing enough to carry you along without feeling cheated, and it even finds time for a nifty chase sequence with one suspect on rollerblades pursued by police cars. And it's hard not to be bemused by one villainous businessman who's a dead ringer for Alan Sugar...
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