Sunday, May 13, 2018

Racer and the Jailbird

That construction in front of the Kendall Square theater is just never going to be done, is it? I feel like I've been going there via the parking garage for a full year now.

I was mildly surprised while writing up the "Next Week" entry on Thursday night to see that this was the new one from the director of Bullhead; that seemed like it was a big enough deal when it came out to be something that would get this more attention, although maybe that was just my perspective: It came out of nowhere at Fantasia, got picked up by Drafthouse Films at a point where a lot of the online film community was paying attention to them and boosting anything connected to the Drafthouse empire without a whole lot of question, getting nominated for Best Foreign Language Film when a lot of the conventional wisdom was that Belgium would submit the latest from the Dardenne Brothers. It's easy for a director to fade from consciousness, though, when it takes a few years to get a movie made and there was a Hollywood movie that didn't set the world on fire in-between.

Which is a bummer; even if Racer isn't the movie Bullhead is, it's interesting, and worth an evening or afternoon now that the Kenmore and other Landmark theaters are on board with MoviePass. It's interesting to see how director Michael Roksam and star Matthias Schoenaerts are playing with images of masculinity - Jacky was a steroid-fueled beast who was effectively gelded by what he became in their first movie, while Gigi seems more virile and attractive for how he is decent and occasionally afraid here. At the very least, it's worth seeing what they come up with the next time they work together.

Le Fidèle (Racer and the Jailbird)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 May 2018 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

Director Michaël R. Roskam and actor Matthias Schoenaerts made a heck of an impression with Bullhead, enough that the pair returning to Belgium after making the pretty-good The Drop in America is at least worthy of some attention. Racer and the Jailbird is not the gritty-but-exciting seventies throwback that its English-language title might suggest; French title "Le Fidèle" is closer to what Roskam and his collaborators are going for. Either way, it's not quite the movie it could have been, though the cast makes it worth a look.

The jailbird is Gino "Gigi" Vanoirbeek (Schoenaerts), who made his best friends in juvie and is still robbing banks with them decades later. Bénédicte "Bibi" Delhany (Adèle Exarchopoulos) works for the family's construction business, but her true passion is auto racing. They meet at one of Bibi's races, Gigi claiming to be in automobile imports, and hit it off right away. They soon go close enough that Gigi is starting to think in terms of getting out after the next job, but those always have something go disastrously wrong.

They don't go disastrously wrong in a way that involves Bibi having to drive the getaway car, which would be a bit disappointing even if "drives a car well" wasn't the first thing the audience learned about Bibi. Roskam and co-writers Thomas Bidegain & Noé Debré build what would be a nifty straight crime movie if that was the angle they were going, in that even though the two main jobs in the movie are kind of brute force attacks without much prep-work shown, there's still a thrill to watching them, even with some of the more important events happening off-screen. Roksam stages this material well enough so that the audience doesn't have doubts when Gigi says that what he does is exciting and that he's good at it, even if that's not really the thrust of the movie.

Full review on EFC

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