Monday, 20 November 2006

36 (2004)

This review was originally posted on Ian's Personal Blog on 21st September 2006.

36Two heavyweights of French cinema, Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu, face off in 36, a film originally released in France in 2004, but delayed for two years before reaching the UK's cinemas. One suspects the film may not have had a release at all if Hidden hadn't turned out to be a surprise mainstream success at the start of this year.

Depardieu and Auteuil play two detectives heading up different departments in the Police force. Once close friends, they are now bitter rivals, and their enmity increases when a spate of bloody robberies result in the retiring Police Chief saying his replacement will be whichever of the two stops the gang responsible for the robberies.

Essentially this is a tale of morality, or the complete lack of it, as both men show they are prepared to do anything to get the promotion the other one desires. There's little to choose between the two - one is a cop who was once a good man who's become as bad as the criminals he's chasing, where the other just seems to be a very unpleasant man who never had any morals to start with.

Writer/director Olivier Marchal is a former policeman who says the film is based on real life events, which is kind of scary, if unsurprising in these days of 'innocent' deaths because of over-enthusiasm on the part of policeman trying to fight terrorism on terror!

This is apparently the most expensive film ever made in France and most of that spend is there on the screen. It could almost have been made in Hollywood, with some fantastic action scenes, a great cast, some wonderful cinematography and a story that has something sold at its core. So why the less than enthusiastic rating?

The problem is that what starts off as a gritty, believable and edge-of-your-seat thriller changes tone and direction half way through, and suddenly becomes a far-fetched piece of nonsense that has more holes in it than the average kitchen colander, with a series of coincidences and sudden changes in time and that one feels even Hollywood would turn its nose up at (well, OK maybe not always, but for the most part!). As a result, it turns out to be a very frustrating film: so much of the first 45 minutes is so right, and so much of the last 45 minutes is so wrong.

The jacket sleeve claims that this the French equivalent of Heat - they wish! It's not a bad movie, and it's an enjoyable romp if you can suspend disbelief, but sadly, a classic it ain't.

36 screencap

The DVD transfer is excellent and generously includes a DTS sound track as well as the usual Dolby Digital one. There's no director's commentary, but in all honesty none is needed because the included 'Making Of', 'Actor's Costume Tests' and 'Choice of Weapons' featurettes are pretty comprehensive and provide everything you could want to know. Instead of the commentary there's the choice of a dubbed version of this French language film, and it's very, very bad - stick to the subtitled French version if you want to really experience the film as it was intended to be experienced!

There's even a four page booklet included (remember those?) with background information, so as a DVD package for a relatively obscure film it's a pretty generous package. Well worth a rental, but probably only a purchase for die-hard fans of the two actors.

36 screencap

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