Friday, 5 September 2008

The French in action

If you are inclined to think of French movies as talky arthouse features, think again as French film-makers are increasingly able to challenge Hollywood's action genre.  Maybe that's why so many foreign films are "treated" to U.S. (and generally inferior) remakes.  I've seen two French flicks in the last few days which while not great cinema necessarily, certainly kept the old adrenaline pumping:

Le Serpent (2006):  This was on many levels a relentlessly nasty film but one that held my attention especially since it cast Yvan Attal who is a fairly sympathetic actor in an unexpected action role.  He plays a photographer fighting a messy divorce from his heiress wife when his life begins to disintegrate further.  He has met up, supposedly by accident, with an old schoolmate played by Clovis Cornillac who seems to want to renew this friendship, but who is actually a cold-eyed psychopath with an agenda for revenge.  Watching the calculatingly evil way he worms his way into Attal's former household, proportedly protecting the wife and two kids from harm, and the fate he envisions for them is truly chilling.   The usually relaxed Attal must suddenly find his inner action hero which he believably does.  The film also features an early role for new Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko with a lot more kinky nudity than is likely to feature in Quantum of Solace or whatever it is called.

District 13 (2004): Set in a bleak future (actually 2010), troublemakers have been isolated into a cordoned ghetto ruled by ruthless gangs.  One resident played by David Belle has upset a local Mr. Big over a drug deal and ends up in the pokey framed by the police in the gangster's pay, leaving the gang boss able to abduct Belle's sister and keep her as a doped-up sex slave.  He is freed from prison when an upright cop needs an ally to infiltrate the ghetto to recover a primed nuclear weapon that has been stolen.  This possibly seems an improbable scenario but in truth it is an exciting one as played out, especially for the twist that emerges in the tail.  What makes this action movie even more watchable is that Belle is credited as being the inventor of the sport of Parkour or free-running, and the chase sequences show unparalled athleticism.  The many fight scenes are also thrillingly staged; all in all a great bit of excapism.

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1 comment:

mgp1449 said...

Has there not always been some dichotomy in French cinema - Belmondo was a
very athletic action hero in his early days and Melville's films are not exactly
talky.   The two you deal with here are better than most of their kind with 'Le
Serpent' being less an action film (despite the final reel) than a study a la Hitchcock or Highsmith.   Quantium of Solace will be the less if it does not use
Miss Kurylenko's charms to the full.   District 13 was non-stop action with a
highly unlikely plot line and almost unbelievable stunts - whoopee.