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Thursday, November 18, 2010


Last year’s Grand Prix at Cannes was this pulsating prison pic from Jacques Audiard about an Arab newbie (Tahar Rahim) who’s forced to murder a fellow inmate to gain protection. And initially, this well-made film looks & sounds like a typical prison drama as the kid learns the ropes; starts to work for the Corsican drug lord (Niels Arestrup) who runs the joint from his cell; oversteps; and eventually rises to a height from which he must fall. Maybe, maybe not. We follow the template only so far as Audiard is far more audacious and moves past the prison walls to show how criminal communication makes the rounds in the real world, cross-contaminating everything they touch. It’s fascinating stuff and watching how Rahim plays his role as odd-man-out (or is he the ultimate insider?), crossing cultural lines as he works out where he stands in the line of command is stunningly handled. And it’s not all mind-games since Audiard delivers a steady stream of beautifully executed action sequences all thru the story. The film bears comparison with the Robert De Niro sections of GODFATHER II/’74 or Al Pacino’s SCARFACE/’83, though happily without the De Palma excesses or the self-aggrandizing perfs in either film. It's a major achievement.

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