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Sunday, January 19, 2020


This is a gripping French policier that made a big impression at last year’s Durban International Film Festival. (Review by Patrick Compton - 8/10)

No folks, this is not the Hugh Jackman/Anne Hathaway musical but a completely different beast, a gripping cop thriller that takes its title from the characters who inhabit the run-down Paris suburb where it is set, Montfermeil, which just happens to be the same place where Victor Hugo lived and wrote his epic 1862 novel, Les Misérables.

This movie, directed by Ladj Ly, is about a three-man anti-crime unit that patrols the streets, engaging with gangs, families and lots of kids, mainly of Muslim descent.

The movie has a punchily ironic opening, showing thousands of French football fans of all shapes, colours and creeds gathering to celebrate their national team’s victory in the 2018 World Cup. As we watch the seething crowds, the title of the film comes up which serves as something of a punch in the gut.

The effect of the World Cup quickly dissipates as the people of Montfermeil return to their hard life on the streets. Director Ly, making his feature film debut (which won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival), vividly portrays the existence of the under-class as they barely scrape a living in the urban jungle.

The plot, which focuses on what happens after a youngster steals a lion cub from a visiting circus, throws the suburb into crisis, with the often blundering police team in the middle of it. The film’s two main characters, a sympathetic cop and the lion cub thief, are central to the complex tone of the film and its poignant ending.

The movie, in French with English subtitles, is showing at Gateway and the Pavilion. – Patrick Compton