When this, Jacques Audiard’s directorial debut, received its first screenings, some dubbed it a French Reservoir Dogs. While it’s certainly true that the films share both an ingenious flashback structure and an interest in loyalty and betrayal, the comparison conceals the fact that Audiard’s film ranges wider and delves deeper than Quentin’s cult classic. Indeed, this witty French thriller traces two stories: that of salesman Simon (Jean Yanne), whose midlife crisis coincides with his inadvertent involvement in the murder of a cop; and that of the faltering development of the friendship between seedy, aggressive con-man Marx (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and slow-witted innocent Johnny (Matheiu Kassovitz). As Simon neglects work and family in an obsessive attempt to track down the cop’s killer, so the alternating tales gradually and inexorably converge.
With its fragmented, elliptical narrative packed with intriguing twists and surprises, this is clearly the work of the man who gave us the delightful A Self-Made Hero. As in Hero, Kassovitz is marvellously credible as the hapless youth who’ll do anything to be liked, though he’s perfectly matched by Yann (all grizzled melancholy), Trintignant (braggadocio barely masking inner confusion) and the rest of the cast. Among the film’s many original and imaginative variations on crime-movie conventions, perhaps most remarkable is the way it not only admits to but explores and opens up the homoerotic dimensions of the Marx-Johnny relationship, with the result that the film is finally considerably more affecting than the enigmatic early scenes might lead you to expect. Very impressive.oGeoff Andrew/Time Out.