Monday, August 08, 2016

Disorder: Matthias Schoenaerts Provides Home Security

There is a long and dishonorable tradition of demonizing shell-shocked veterans in exploitation films (see Carnage Park, or rather don’t see it). However, the PTSD-afflicted Vincent Loreau is a different case entirely. Yes, he is paranoid and sometimes violent, but those will be useful traits in Alice Winocour’s Disorder (a.k.a. Maryland, trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Loreau is on an extended medical from the French Special Forces, with no real expectation of reinstatement anytime soon. He is generally quite high-functioning, but he endures semi-regular episodes that leave him immobilized by flashbacks from the past. Regardless of his stability, Loreau will pick up some freelance armed security work, thanks to his former comrade Denis. Their first gig together will be the swanky party thrown by shady Lebanese-French businessman Imad Whalid at the luxurious villa he dubbed “Maryland.”

As he patrols the halls and grounds, Loreau overhears enough to suspect Whalid is in the arms trade and his business has taken a dangerous downward turn. Those suspicions seem to be borne out by Whalid’s precipitous departure on a secret business trip the following day. Wanting protection for his wife Jessie and young son Ali, Whalid contracts with Denis for some on-site protection. Thinking it will be an easy temp gig, he gives it to Loreau. Of course, Loreau is painfully awkward around Jessie Whalid, especially when his manic impulses kick in, but his hyper-vigilance is soon vindicated. Eventually he will have to dig in at Maryland, with only the reliable Denis for back-up.

Disorder is a pretty lean and mean home invasion-slash-[relative]-innocents-in-jeopardy thriller with Euro-techno flavoring layered on top and a dash of political paranoia added for garnish. In a welcome departure from her over-heralded feature debut Augustine, Winocour keeps the action tight and tense. Of course, her co-leads are clearly playing to their strengths. Nobody better embodies a big hulk with a big hurt inside than Bullhead’s Matthias Schoenaerts. He has instant action cred, but also acutely expresses Loreau’s socially stunted vulnerability. 

Similarly, the German-born Diane Kruger is no stranger to polyglot ice queens, but she also connects with Madame Whalid’s mothering side and gilded alienation. Paul Hamy’s Denis also adds a few shots of energy and attitude without compromising the film’s hothouse atmosphere.

Like Loreau, Disorder gets the job done. It is sleek and stylish in the Michael Mann tradition, but the wounded psyche of its flawed hero makes it more compelling than most bodyguarding dramas. Highly recommended for fans of French thrillers, Disorder opens this Friday (8/12) in New York, at the IFC Center.