Police reflects a cynicism towards law enforcement that HBO’s Baltimore cop series The Wire so successfully portrays, although from another era and another continent.

Co-writer/director Maurice Pialat’s improv style encourages Gerard Depardieu to do his own thing. By the mid Eighties when the film came out he was a massive star in France, with The Last Metro (Truffaut), Loulou (Pialat), Danton (Wajda) and The Return Of Martin Guerre (Vigue) under his belt. He could do what he wanted, and did.

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He plays Mangin, an emotionally dysfunctional plain-clothes cop, whose methods of making a suspect squeal would get him a job at Quatanamo Bay. He heavy handles women as well as men in a vicious attempt to break a Tunisian drugs ring. As for sex, he prefers prostitutes – they don’t bitch when he dumps them. This may explain his infatuation with Noria (Sophie Marceau), a hooker who is engaged to the jailed leader of the gang.

The film exposes a police force no longer in control of itself. Mangin’s friendship with the lawyer (Richard Anconina), representing the bad guys, makes a mockery of justice and there doesn’t seem to be anyone overseeing his behaviour, which makes him less credible and less interesting. A loose cannon on a tight ship endangers the entire crew; a loose cannon in an open field endangers itself.

The film comes in two halves, the first in the station, where Mangin interrogates suspects, and the second involving Noria, whom Mangin has already smacked about a bit. The mood changes as they begin to realise what is happening between them. Neither understands the meaning of love, although Noria imagines she does. It’s a sobering thought, as she is aware that cheating on her fiancé would sign her death warrant, and even Mangin knows this is a boundary he cannot cross.

Marceau, in her second screen appearance, is impressive. Noria should not be portrayed as a tart with a heart, like newcomer Sandrine Bonnaire, all smiles and unselfconscious nudity. This is a complex woman, by no means on the side of the angels. As Depardieu lets it all out, Marceau is self-contained, and the chemistry works, despite its component parts.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2008
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No holds barred as French cops go after a Tunisian drugs gang.

Director: Maurice Pialat

Writer: Catherine Breillat, Jacques Fieschi, Sylvie Danton, Maurice Pialat

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Richard Anconina, Pascale Rocard, Sandrine Bonnaire, Frank Karaoui, Jonathan Leïna, Jacques Mathou, Bernard Fuzellier, Bentahar Meaachou

Year: 1985

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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