The action is sparked off by Issa (playing himself) a young tearaway who has stolen a lion cub from a gypsy travelling circus. The cop trio must cruise the streets and gather ‘intel’ from their informants in order to recover the animal. But the situation soon escalates after the police are ambushed as they chase their suspect through the playing fields, one of them ‘accidentally’ firing a ‘flashball gun’ that injures Issa. What’s worse is that the incident is being filmed by a drone, spelling disaster for Chris and his colleagues.
Amid the simmering violent ambience, Stéphane soon emerges as the ‘good cop’ and is determined to hold his colleagues to task: they often resort to what they consider ‘necessary’ tactics, and there are times when you actually root for them given the complexities of the task at hand in this understandably lawless environment. The paucity of influential female characters makes this a very macho affair which works best in the scenes where livid anger, resentment and retribution sizzle below the surface. The mayhem that erupts in the finale – though cathartic for Ly himself – feels overblown, destabilising the subtle human stories at the tragedy’s core that are worthy of a more thorough and satisfying exploration. But Ly opts for full-on mayhem and melodrama. And these brilliantly executed crowd-pleasing moments will have appeal for those who identify with the young reprobate Issa. Les Miserables is France’s entry to next year’s Academy Awards. MT
IN UK and IRISH CINEMAS | 4 SEPTEMBER 2020