Paris Countdown

Paris Countdown

**1/2

Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

As a Paris-set thriller set over the course of an evening that escalates beyond its two male protagonists’ control, Paris Countdown (Le Jour Attendra) draws comparisons to Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible (2002). Like that film, Edgar Marie’s feature debut as director unfolds like an unstoppable neon nightmare, one in which doom and the end of time seem never too far away.

Unfortunately, this nightmare seems inspired by one cinematic cliché too many; to cite just one, there are always easier ways to kill two guys than repeatedly ramming their car from one side. As such, the film is less a plausible and therefore thrilling scenario than a dormantly adolescent fantasy, in which gunplay and the thrill of the chase (or of being chased) outweigh more challenging real-world responsibilities. As one character says upon punching another in the face: “a dream come true”. This is a Paris in which life and death are things of little consequence.

At its start, nightclub owners Milan (Olivier Marchal) and Victor (Jacques Gamblin) botch a handover of debt on the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, and are subsequently tortured to near death by local narcs, who want them to testify against French gangster Serki (Carlo Brandt). Cut to six years later, from the ultraviolence to ultraviolet: Serki, released from prison, visits Milan and Victor’s sun-bedding associate Wilfried (Reda Kateb), wanting to hunt the pair down and wreak nasty havoc upon them.

Catching wind of such plans, Milan and Victor reunite (the former retained and expanded the club business, the latter is happily married with two boys) and decide to retreat ahead of their nemesis into the night, staying one step ahead to defer an inevitable standoff.

Olivier Marchal’s presence before the camera here recalls his directorial hand behind 36 (2004), a policier that boasted star turns from Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu but that also compared unfavourably to Michael Mann’s similar Heat, which preceded it by some nine years. Likewise, the noirish panache here (Paris is all plush, geometric neon) resembles the style-over-substance aesthetic of latterday Nicolas Winding Refn. Marie’s direction is confident to a degree but his go to technique is to slow down his imagery and amp up the pounding electro of the nightclub milieu, something that can’t help but aestheticise the violence therein. To be sure, one of the key set-pieces here unfolds like a fetishistic music promo.

For all its bombast – the thwacks, the thuds, the slowed-down bang of a gunshot – one never really believes these guys are in trouble. Just as the director is too busy making the whole thing look nice, Milan is too busy making Victor cocktails and reminiscing about the good old days. As Tony Soprano remarks in a late episode of television series The Sopranos, though, remember-when is the lowest form of conversation.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2013
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Two ageing nightclub owners find events slipping out of control one dangerous night.
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