is not a lot of love lost between NATO and some Serbians. An elite Marseilles police captain
understands this only too well. A group
of Serbian gangsters has hijacked a shipment of the military organization’s
arms, leading to a wave of violent hold-ups.
As it turns out, the Serb network also smuggles drugs, forcing the
captain to make an uneasy alliance with the Parisian vice cop daughter he never
took the time to know. It is a dangerous
game for all involved in Pierre Jolivet’s Armed
screened as part of the 2012 In French with English Subtitles Film Festival,
now underway in New York.
Lucas Skali is a perfect fit for festival special guest Roschdy Zem. Yes, he has played many diverse characters
throughout his career, but he truly excels in hardnosed roles, such as those he
played in Point Blank, 36th Precinct, Paris By Night, and even Anne Fontaine’s comparatively breezy Girl from Monaco. Skali is not a superman nor is he always very
sympathetic, but he is all business, so do not trifle with him.
wind of the Serbian operation, Skali almost loses an informant when a set-up
buy goes down badly. Oh well, eggs will
break when you’re making omelets. Hot on
the trail, they follow the gang to Paris, where his grown daughter Maya Dervin
works for the corrupt Julien Bass. The
extent of Bass’s graft is not immediately apparent, but he seems to be at the
center of a number of dodgy deals. In
fact, one of the more intriguing aspects of Armed
is the way it depicts a sort of twilight economy shared by both the vice
cops and the criminals they pursue.
Naturally, Skali and Dervin find themselves working different ends of
the same case. It is a serendipitous
situation Skali tries to make the least of.
question, Jolivet is more interested in the procedural side of “policiers,”
rather than shoot-out spectacles. Frankly,
Armed is somewhat reminiscent of 1970’s
films, not in terms of superficial style, but for its jaded, anti-heroic vibe. While not as chocked full of attitude as Paris by Night, it is decidedly moody all
that plays to Zem’s strengths. Appropriately
world-weary yet ruthless, Zem commands the screen as Skali. Leïla Bekhti is also quite credible as
Dervin, but her character’s inclination towards self-pity often feels a bit
off. Is she her father’s daughter or
what? Still, Marc Lavoine (excellent in
Tony Gatlif’s Korkoro) is ambiguously
sleazy in a rather effective way as Bass.
is the sort of cerebral, detail-rich crime drama
genre fans will relish digging into.
Given the commercial subject matter and Zem’s steadily increasing American
art-house stardom, it should be a cinch for extensive festival play. Recommended for connoisseurs of French cinema
and those who appreciate intricate, multi-character procedurals, Armed Hands should have international
legs. It did not disappoint patrons when
it screened at this year’s In French with English Subtitles Film Festival,
which concludes today (12/2) with another full day of screenings.
Labels: Cop Movies, French Cinema, IFWES '12, Roschdy Zem