Racer and the Jailbird (2017)

July 8th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Michael R Roskam | Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adele Exarcholpoulos | Belgium | Crime Drama | 130′

Best known for his glowering Flemish thriller Bullhead, Michael Roskam is back again for the forth time with Belgian heavyweight Matthias Shoenhaerts who plays smalltime gangster Gigi in this classy high octane ‘amour noir’ thriller set on the race track.

The opening scenes introduce us to Gigi Vanoirbeek early days of danger where his father used to a fierce Alsatian to discipline him. Things have moved upmarket for Gino, who now operates in the luxury car market where he falls for young racing driver Bibi Delhany (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Their sexual chemistry is incendiary and love is spurred on by their risk-taking personalities, despite their wildly different backgrounds.

This is a stylishly fluid piece of kit and wonderful to watch as Roskam and his stars hold our attention and the action-packed hour that sparks on all cylinders fired up by the fizzing fervour of the pair’s glamorous lifestyle. But then Roskam makes an abrupt left turn, just as he did in Bullhead, and the adrenaline runs out as plot lines blur and the vehicle gradually trundles off the tracks.  This is no fault of Schoenhaerts whose mesmerising physical presence is matched by Exarchopoulos cutsy charm both in and out of bed they are a perfect couple but the script can’t sustain 130 minutes of their lust as the romance peters out with his sociopathic lies about ‘business travel’ to cover his back, and her life-challenging down-spiral after smelling a rat. Clearly Gigi has a built-in factory default that limits his reliable shelf life but Bibi can’t let go until she starts to lose her own mind and friends come to the rescue.

As a story of doomed love this feels terrifically convincing but Roskam doesn’t know how to call it a day and add fuel to his fire. That said, this is definitely one to watch with its firebrand finale courtesy of ace DoP Nicolas Karakatsanis. MT

Michaël R. Roskam was born in Flanders. He studied at the St. Lucas Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels and the Maurits Binger Film Institute in Amsterdam. His directorial credits include Bullhead (11), which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and The Drop (14), which played the Festival. Racer and the Jailbird (17) is his latest film.



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