Thursday, 4 December 2014
Non-stop: "Mea Culpa"
Fred Cavayé may well be the closest the French cinema has to an airport novelist: every few years, this writer-director cranks out another thick-ear thriller that practically begs for translation into a dozen other languages. You'll perhaps know him for Pour Elle/Anything for Her, the 2008 movie that was to inspire the Russell Crowe vehicle The Next Three Days; his latest, Mea Culpa, is even more economically assembled, a brisk ninety minutes of chase scenes, stand-offs and fistfights designed to pick up the maximum number of playtimes per day. The plot, such as it is, concerns two estranged friends and erstwhile colleagues forced to pair up again in the wake of renewed crisis. The reliably lived-in Vincent Lindon plays Simon, a guilt-ridden security guard who lost his detective gig after ploughing his car into a mother and child a few years before; he's obliged to reteam with his partner that fateful day, Gilles Lellouche's seedy, hooker-soliciting Franck, in a bid to protect his young son, who's only gone and witnessed a gangland execution in the bathroom underneath the ring at a bullfight. (Such unlikely confluences are par for the course in Cavayé-world: what's essential is how the film moves - and moves us - past them.)
If you can overlook the fact all involved could now probably knock one of these out in their sleep, there are some very familiar pleasures to be taken here; for maximum enjoyment, you should already have some idea of what you're paying for going in, because - with the exception of a few tweaks to the formula - that's essentially what you're going to get. The conversation between Cavayé and cinematographer Danny Elsen almost certainly went no further than "Metallic blue and slate-grey again, then?" "Oui." Yet this pair do a more than competent job of generating the requisite tension and suspense on some fairly humdrum backstreets. With the exception of one genre-dictated nightclub shootout, there's none of the flashy fuss or pandering of Luc Besson's recent product, and Lindon makes a more convincing meat-and-potatoes hardman than Liam Neeson's dopey, dreamy Celt, who's always looked to me as though he's got half a mind on which Yeats poem he's going to recite at his nemeses' funeral: you completely buy that, to protect his lad, this grizzled type would try to punch a man's face off through his motorbike helmet. The American remake will be a needless 25 minutes longer, and probably omit the nicely droll gag that sees the killers fined for boarding a TGV without a ticket.
Mea Culpa opens in selected cinemas from tomorrow.