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A former crook who is believed to be dead has built a new life abroad after extensive reconstructive facial surgery. The old judge in charge of his case tracks him down and asks him to go back to his home town to infiltrate the criminal gang he used to work with under his new identity. A dark, addictive tale of betrayal and revenge. In French with English subtitles.
It all takes place at Durkerque, most of the time at the port, which looks like a ghost town, with its huge cranes that look like giants and a mountain of containers that somewhat look like coffins, more alive than the human beings. Victor Fontanel is your classical psychopath: a powerful man-about-town who enjoys being cruel, has a short temper, is narcissistic and gets everything he wants by violence, be it a port concession, respect by his subordinates or having sex with her beautiful wife. Like "Robert Seyr" in Audiard's "De battre...", he's a crook that has to learn how to "grow into business" like his Russian business partner Valdernev tries to tell him. CEO of "Manutentention du Nord", criminal, family man in his spare time, his next step is getting the concession of the "Terminal des Indes" against "CBM", a real business conglomerate. But whereas Valdernev is thinking about numbers, Vic's job is wielding power and vengeance is his only passion, and he likes to deliver the blows himself. Paranoid and insecure, he's never at ease. When he gets a stint at the local prison, the friendly guard "Christophe" tells him as a farewell: "see you soon" :). This is also a film about organized crime, seen like a provincial "family affair", or run professionally, internationally. Vic does the same job his father and grandfather, but Valdernev's cold approach is far more efficient. This is a movie about modernization. XIX century versus XXIst. This is also a film about trust, like "The departed". We know from the start who's the rat, and that nobody is clean after all.
Neither is Mathias Leblanc/ Alexis Marceau. His hardened face tells as much as it hides. He never smiles, is a man with a mission, only one. Copper Delphine B. (E. Vitali, from L'été de Chloé) abuses and manipulates him, as much as the customs cop Lamassoure. Delphine masterminded the infiltration, smelling Leblanc's discontent and him having... nothing left to loose. Of course his son Jérémie, who seems to have inherited his father's grim face, but not at all his flair for business and wielding just the necessary aggression. J's already well into cocaine and paid company. In fact, he's already getting into harm's way, and there's little his long suffering mum Anne M. can do about it. As she blurts to Victor: "you contaminate him, as well as me". She fears her husband, but well, who doesn't?
C. Talpaert plays Florence, a barmaid, the same character as in "un singe sour le dos", also about a violent man. "Fun" seems to repeat itself in different contexts.
My favourite scenes are when our protagonist gets some hardboiled advice from his former self, like a "Jekyill and Hyde" but inverted.
Music and photography are fine, the American music is an ode to violent life and some images highlight the harbour's coldness and grim life but at the same time, showing us some unexpected glimpses of beauty.
Maybe a bit long, some melodrama near the end, and some loose threads in the 2nd part prevent me from putting this fine film a higher "grade".
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