22 Bullets

22 Bullets


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

22 Bullets opens with what could easily be a pair of Italian pasta sauce and Audi adverts - product placement abounds. This bit of simplistic soppiness is crucially cut short by a marvellous opening bloodbath - in which Charly Mattei (Jean Reno) is gunned down by masked assailants. This is a terrific opening: startling, gruesomely violent gunplay, reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven's classic RoboCop's sadistic slaying. The bastards even blast his puppy-dog.

In a well-cut, if obvious, exposition sequence, Mattei is rushed to ER and the other Marseille godfathers are informed of the situation. Doors open from one place to the next, using invisible wipes from one location to the other. The flashback sequences are good, with the participants' memories full of tricked-out photography and editing reminiscent of their coked-up existence. It reminds me of a similar moment in the otherwise awful Walking Tall, where the hero's memory is patchy after an intense sequence. Our hero survives, but the surgeon team who save his life by yanking 22 bullets out only serve to piss him off. He even has to learn to shoot with his left hand. The attack has severed his nerves - and Mattei demonstrates by stabbing himself with cutlery to make his point.

Copy picture

The production values and Marseilles location photography are beyond reproach - beautiful, sun-kissed architecture. The action scenes are skilfully handled, though Reno's motorcycle stunt-double looks about 50 pounds lighter than he is. Straddling the shakycam line between the classic editorial excellence of The Dark Knight and the delirious Green Zone's action photography, it's well-handled and ceases before it's like our Mattei, crawling through 15 feet of barbed wire.

Jean Reno is unflappably cool. There's not much more to it, other than a collection of handwringing speeches about the nature of his existence, and the foolishness of morality. It is entirely set in a closed environment, which is almost entirely evil. Innocent bystanders do not get a look in. The only good cop is an alcoholic, with a broken family, with an innate sense of justice. Count the clichés, and we're talking weeks of material. Jean-Pierre Darrousin as one of the other godfathers gives a delightfully evil performance, cutting the ham and menace to just the right delicious thickness. And these mafioso types love their families - from their aging mothers, through to their cherubic little boys and a multitude of broken, but no less affectionate marriages.

Down to the bottom line - 22 Bullets is well-made, fast-paced and does what it says on the tin, and only mildly insults my intelligence. An easy three stars.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2010
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Jean Reno stars as a retired gangster out for revenge for a brutal assassination attempt.
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Director: Richard Berry

Writer: Eric Assous, Richard Berry, Alexandre de La Patellière, Mathieu Delaporte, Franz-Olivier Giesbert

Starring: Jean Reno, Kad Merad, Gabriella Wright, Richard Berry, Marina Foïs, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Claude Gensac, Fani Kolarova, Venantino Venantini, Fanny Delaporte, Denis Braccini, Carlo Brandt, Moussa Maaskri, Joey Starr, Jessica Forde

Year: 2010

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2010

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