Above The Law

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Above The Law
"There's not an inch of fat on this slickly edited and tightly plotted Belgian crime thriller"

There's not an inch of fat on this slickly edited and tightly plotted Belgian crime thriller, which starts with its story motor running and rarely eases off the throttle - even the original title Tueurs is economic, meaning simply 'killers' in French.

The action begins in 1985 with news reports on a real-life murder spree by a trio who became known as the Brabant Killers and who, in a series of attacks, left 28 dead and injured more than 40 - crimes that remain unsolved. While this segment will probably work best for audiences familiar with the original crimes, it is comprehensive enough to clue us in - particularly with regard to the suggestion of a potential conspiracy theory that opens the door for the action to follow.

Copy picture

Fast-forward 30 years and Francois Troukens, who wrote the screenplay with Giordano Gerdelini, and co-directs with Jean-Fran├žois Hensgens, imagines the high-level plot that may have lain behind it, raising the stakes by mixing the story in with a tale of expert robber Frank Valken (Olivier Gourmet) whose 'final heist' becomes a lot more serious after his carefully planned crime becomes mixed up in the murder of a judge (Natacha Regnier). Valken is the 'honest criminal' sort, interested only in money and not in violence. Needless to say, that doesn't stop him becoming the chief suspect for cops Lucie Tesla (Lubna Azabal) and Dany Bouvy (Bouli Lanners), who have an enjoyably abrasive relationship, even if, like all the characters here, it goes largely undeveloped.

Troukens and Gerdelini have no time to talk, preferring instead to keep the action flowing from one showdown to the next. While crime thrillers aren't exactly in short supply, there's a pleasing level of detail here - such as birthday candles used as part of an explosion - and a matter-of-fact attitude that give the action a gritty and realistic tone. Presumably Troukens was able to draw on his own experience to a degree, having done some serious jail time for van heists of his own before rising to fame as a media commentator in his homeland, and his more recent comic book writing could explain stripped down approach to characters.

Hensgens - whose DoP background has run the gamut from the naturalism of the Dardennes brothers and Joachim LaFosse's The White Knights through to The Sweeney: Paris - aims for a Michael Mann vibe, which gives it sheen if not substance. The cast bring just enough heft to the theft to ensure the film makes a clean getaway, even though it, like the best of criminals if not the best of films, doesn't leave much of a trace.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2017
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A robber's final heist becomes mixed up in a murder conspiracy.

Director: Jean-François Hensgens, François Troukens

Writer: Fran├žois Troukens

Starring: Lubna Azabal, Olivier Gourmet, Bouli Lanners, Kevin Janssens, Tibo Vandenborre, Alexandre Picot, Thibaut Pira Van Overeem

Year: 2017

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Belgium

Festivals:

Venice 2017

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If you like this, try:

Fast Convoy
Miami Vice
The Sweeney: Paris