Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Real life is not structured, like fiction. Even conversations sound fractious. A well-made screenplay is far too polished and yet that is what we applaud. Reality has no beginning, middle and end; it has surprise, chaos and boredom.

Bertrand Tavernier has made a two-and-a-half hour cop movie in the style of cinema verite. It is not the real thing. That would be a documentary - even documentaries are edited, which, according to purists, is cheating. In order to create the impression of honesty, explanation is avoided and plot runs naturally into the wall.

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Lulu (Didier Besace) is in his thirties. He's been a plain-clothes flic long enough to realise it's a pissing in the wind kind of job. He's not cynical. He cares. Even on a stakeout, in the back of a fuggy transit, waiting for someone who doesn't appear, he's not agonising about what he's doing with his life. He's just doing it.

What he likes best is cultivating contacts and setting up traps. In drug prevention, stoolies are vital. Without them, les flics wouldn't have a clue. Even with them, they cock it up more often than not.

Lulu hates paperwork. L.627 is a form. One of thousands. The film has a simple message - bureaucracy is a bad mother. Lulu wants to catch the fat cats who are destroying a generation of kids, the dealers. He doesn't want to be stuck behind a desk.

He has a young wife he hardly ever sees and a prostitute friend who is HIV-positive. He joins a new crew and a certain amount of banter takes place, usually sexist, especially when Marie (Charlotte Kady), the feisty female operative, is around. The contrast between silly pranks and serious business carries on throughout.

In the end the impression is that cops are no worse than anyone else. Some are sadistic, others racist, and their battle against crime may be lost before it has begun. Life on the force has fewer perks and less rewards. Camaraderie holds them together. Talk is tenuous.

"Sometimes I'm scared."

"Me too,"

It's a job. Like any other? It's not entertainment.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2006
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The life of a plainclothes narcotics detective in the French police is a balance between les cock-ups and camaraderie.
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Director: Bertrand Tavernier

Writer: Michel Alexandre, Bertrand Tavernier

Starring: Didier Besace, Charlotte Kady, Philippe Torreton, Nils Tavernier, Jean-Paul Comart, Jean-Roger Milo, Lara Guirao, Cecile Garcia-Fogel, Claude Brosset

Year: 1992

Runtime: 145 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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