Paris Lockdown Review
The great thing about the Long Good Friday was that it was a film about the end of an era. The era of the Krays, of gangsters who were good to their mums and kept order where the police were too scared to try. Harold Shand was a man trying to enter the age of Thatcherism but finding that he had competitors that he hadn't taken seriously and for whom principle was more important than bribes or fear. I mention Harold because Paris Lockdown is another film about a gangster who finds that the world has changed around him, and that in changing times not even the most loyal can be trusted.
The film concentrates for its opening half on Claude Corti, a gallic Harold Shand, whose violent grip on the short hairs of the Paris underworld seems unshakeable. We follow him as he arranges a large drug deal that soon is blown apart by chancers, and this leads his empire into fearful reprisals and an inevitable decline. The second half follows hitman Franck, Benoit Magimel, as he comes to terms with what he needs to do to survive within a new status quo where his "friend" Claude is on the slide and powerless to protect himself.
The two halves of the film afford an interesting contrast in terms of charcter and acting, as Corti is played as a force of nature, the baddest of bad men, by a permanently enraged and coked up Phillipe Caubere. Corti is a man who constantly needs to be dominant through violence or sex, a man who makes his point by gouging his enemies eyes out with a spoon and sending them to the widow. He is coarse, ruthless and scary - he ensures obedience by making sure that his followers are more scared of him than his enemies are. This provides a marked contrast with the urbane, cool, and confident hitman, and their fates are much decided by their different attributes.
Even more intriguing is the different acting styles. Magimel is becoming a wonderful actor and he is fascinating to watch here, every bit as good as he has been in his more serious roles for Haneke and Chabrol. His quality is his control and understated delivery - whilst Caubere chews the scenery and most of the cast around him, Magimel is calculating and implying. For this very reason, and the joy of seeing a bad man get his payback, the second half of the film is more accomplished than the first.
There are suggestions of greater depth and political significance in the screenplay by having the nouveau gangsters threatening the established order be both Arab and Muslim, but these ideas are, sadly, never given enough time to be explored. Instead the film enjoys the shootouts and the building tension as confrontations become inevitable and the bloody floodgates open. This is a violent film and an excessively masculine experience where women are whores, adulteresses, or bored shoppers on the mere edges of their men's lives. It is important to warn you that the violence is as stomach churning as you might find in a gangster film, with one particular torture sequence that fools you by suggesting its going to be distanced and objective at first, but gradually becomes every bit as invasive as the uses that the power tools seen in it are put to.
Oliver Marchal turns up in a supporting role, and in some ways the film this resembles most is his recent film 36 Quai des Orfevres with its unrelenting hyper-real tone, driving modern music score, and multitude of betrayals and machismo. Thankfully this film keeps away from the sillier plot twists that that film had, and not even the graphic appearance of Marchal's meat and two veg can ruin what is an absorbing modern crime thriller.
Doesn't every body hate burnt in subtitles? Unfortunately, this disc does possess this particular vice which will detract many from what is a strong transfer and thumping 5.1 mix. The anamorphic transfer is framed at 2.35:1, original aspect ratio, and the contrast is very good with the film's muted and rather metallic colour scheme. Images are always well detailed and properly defined, and colours, whilst not brilliant, are confident and strong. The single audio track is a 5.1 mix that is exercised during the shootouts and car chases with a powerful sub-woofer channel adding an ominous edge to the score whilst ensuring the violence is explosive. Ambience is created well whether we are in hotel rooms, garages or moving cars and dialogue is always distinct, the directional quality of the track means that the score gives the rear and side speakers a good work out with front-on dialogue always coming from the centre channel and effects mixed across the whole range.
Julien Lecat's documentary about the making of the film is presented here and begins badly with the unbelievably trite note from the director to his crew that "you don't have to be mad to make movies but it helps". Things pick up as we watch the filming of the opening scene, and the creation of prosthetics for the torture scene. Schoedoerrfer is then interviewed and talks about the film as part of a trilogy about three professions which began with his cops movie Scenes de Crimes and was followed by a secret agent project, Agents Secrets. He sees each film in the context of the character's relationship with the state, concluding with the movie on review being a film about chaos and lawlessness. Cast and crew chip in, and the realistic look of the film is discussed alongside the attempts to ground the story in fact. This is a far better insight into film-making that your average making of, and even concludes with Marianne Faithful recording the title song for the film, which as a fan pleased me greatly. Two short trailers complete the haul of extras for the film, along with forced trailers for Chrysalis and Eden Log which start the disc and are unavailable from the main menu once it loads.
Everyone hates forced subs, but if you can see past that then this is a well made, enthralling crime movie.