Monday, December 03, 2012

IFWES ’12: The Lookout

One of the hazards of a career in crime is the proximity to criminals.  Initially, the sniper-mastermind of a small gang of bank robbers is only concerned with keeping the cops at bay.  However, he soon must contend with a shadowy figure outside the law in Michele Placido’s The Lookout (trailer here), which screened last night as the closing selection of the 2012 In French with English Subtitles Film Festival in New York.

Parisian police Captain Mattei thinks he has the drop on Vincent Kaminski’s gang, but it is the sniper-lookout who has the drop on the cops.  Kaminski does his job, but it is not a clean getaway.  The married Nico has been badly wounded.  Their only option is the disgraced suburban Dr. Feelgood, who periodically supplies morphine to gang’s secret addict, Éric.  Keep your eye on him.

Given the hail of bullets Kaminski rained down on Mattei’s men, the armed robber could not be hotter.  Nico and his brother try to lay low and recuperate.  However, Kaminski is pinched due to a suspicious anonymous tip.  Of course, no prison will hold the marksmen, especially when he feels slightly betrayed.

Placido certainly is not afraid of generating a body count in The Lookout.  The first act shoot-out is just a massive spectacle of flying ammunition.  Yet, sensitive viewers should be warned, the film takes a dark detour into rather shocking territory, much to the surprise of both cops and robbers.  It is not for the delicate, but The Lookout has some real jolts in store.  Indeed, Placido pivots into left field relatively agilely, pulling viewers along with his ultra-slick Michael Mann style.

As Kaminski, Mathieu Kassovitz broods like a monster and comes across convincingly hardnosed, in a wiry kind of way.  Daniel Auteuil certainly knows how to play a civil servant under pressure, also acquitting himself rather well for a middle-aged guy in the believably staged action scenes.  Olivier Gourmet is simply chilling as the underground sawbones, in ways that would be spoilery to explain.  In fact, the large ensemble cast of dozens all look pretty credible as either cops or robbers.

The Lookout is exactly the sort of French film that exports well, with a story that could easily be transferred to an American city like New York without jeopardizing its dramatic integrity.  Gritty in tone but super cool visually (thanks to cinematographer Arnaldo Catinari), The Lookout delivers for fans of Mann’s Heat and Affleck’s The Town.  It ought to have a plenty of action on the festival circuit, driven by its star power.  A strong closer, it capped three days of entertaining French Cinema programmed by the In French with English Subtitles Film Festival, who donated all their proceeds to the Metro New York Make-a-Wish Foundation, Entraide Française, and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.