France’s Police Nationale largely have jurisdiction over major urban areas and fall under the supervision of the Interior Ministry. The Gendarmerie are a branch of the French military that has responsibility for rural and exurban areas. Their cases often overlap, inevitably leading to rivalries. That made the case of Alain Lamare the serial killer-gendarme (renamed Franck Neuhart for dramatic purposes) even more embarrassing for his commander. Lamare’s reign of terror inspired Cédric Anger’s mostly factual Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.
Neuhart definitely kept to himself, like most serial killers. He is unpopular with his fellow gendarmes, but his commander values his strict obedience to regulations. Neuhart starts out with deliberate hit-and-runs targeting women, but he quickly escalates to firearms. Neuhart is so confident in his cleverness and insider information, he even sends taunting notes to the gendarmerie.
From time to time, Anger drops hints regarding Neuhart’s possible sexuality issues, but somehow the poorly socialized cold fish still manages to somewhat seduce his young part-time cleaning woman Sophie. He gives her plenty of clues regarding his mental offness, but she is so desperate for a better life, she choses to overlook them. That is a very human response, but Neuhart’s contemptuous colleagues have no excuse. It is particularly embarrassing when Neuhart and a colleague start canvassing neighborhoods with a police sketch that looks suspiciously like him (because it is).
The case of Neuhart/Lamare is utterly horrifying but also almost laughably absurd. It is pretty clear the serial killer is not as clever as he thinks he is, but he constantly manages to wriggle out of one jam after another. Anger maintains a scrupulously naturalistic vibe that partly de-emphasizes the genre elements. Yet, you still have to shake your head at some of his wild misadventures.
Guillaume Canet is absolutely chilling as Neuhart, suggesting possible causes for his extreme emotional dysfunction without soliciting sympathy for him. On the other hand, Ana Girardot will make viewers wince and ache for poor Sophie. Plus, the large cast of supporting gendarmes induce plenty of hard face-palming, especially Arnaud Henriet as the exceptionally weasel-like Locray.
Throughout Aim, the 1970’s period details look totally spot on, while Anger largely matches the murky tone of Seventies thrillers. It would pair up nicely with SK1, another recent ripped-from-the-true-crime-headlines French thriller. Recommended for fans procedurals and serial killer movies, Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart releases today (8/14) on DVD, from Distrib Films US/Icarus Films.