Plastic Guns

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Plastic Guns
"Like fellow Frenchman Quentin Dupieux, Meurisse has an enjoyably devil-may-care attitude for the most part although he feels almost like Dupieux’s evil twin as he begins to stray, first, into Farrelly Brothers’ territory, and then something altogether more violent."

The old adage says: “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” That’s a sentiment that Jean-Christophe Meurisse takes fully to heart in his latest comedy, which makes such a screeching gear change towards the end into a grimly dark home straight that the chances of taking everyone with him are virtually nil.

Up until that point, there’s quite a lot for most people to enjoy about this absurdist romp, which closed Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight three years after Bloody Oranges showed there out of competition. The set-up is engagingly daft and arrived at in shaggy dog fashion as we hear about crack detective Zavatta (Anthony Paliotti) from a pair of pathologists as they work on a body. In fact, Zavatta is just one part of a large ensemble cast in a narrative that is as much about trimmings as it is the meat of the story.

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The idea that Zavatta is some kind of virtual super-power is immediately undercut as we see him attempting to navigate an airport as he heads on holiday with his family, stopping only to phone his colleagues after he spots a man he believes to be wanted serial killer Paul Bernardin in the airport loo.

The man he has spotted is, in fact, Michel Uzès (Gaëtan Peau) who will spend a large proportion of the action attempting to prove his innocence in increasingly ridiculous ways. Meanwhile, back in France, a couple of amateur sleuths, Léa (Delphine Baril) and Christine (Charlotte Laemmel), are also determined to track down Bernardin (Laurent Stocker). The real killer (Laurent Stocker) - who has slaughtered his wife and kids - is, in fact, living it up elsewhere as we’ll discover in a later portion of the knotty plot.

The plot unfolds like a tessellation effect, which is an impressive feat considering Meurisse and his co-writer Amélie Philippe are juggling action in France, Argentina and Denmark, so that it still fits snugly around the central narrative. Where such a sprawling approach would have fractured many films into sketch show territory, strong character work and performances provide an impressive glue to proceedings. Beneath the farce, there’s a scathing assessment of society - from the psychological drivers that sculpt unlikely vigilantes Christine and Léa to the ineptitude of police forces, especially across international boundaries. The latter is further emphasised once you learn Meurisse was inspired by the real case of pensioner Guy Joao, who was arrested and held for hours in Scotland after being mistaken for killer Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès.

The comedy is mostly of the farcical sort, including a woman who can’t wait to open up about her intimate operation to the neighbouring passenger and a police chief (Anne-Lise Heimburger) with an impressive set of dance moves (the soundtrack, in general, is full of bangers). Meurisse also emphasises the surreality of Uzès’ situation with the visuals, which include an interview in a room so white it looks like it dropped in from a sci-fi film.

Like fellow Frenchman Quentin Dupieux, Meurisse has an enjoyably devil-may-care attitude for the most part although he feels almost like Dupieux’s evil twin as he begins to stray, first, into Farrelly Brothers’ territory, and then something altogether more violent. It’s a move that is, by design, divisive, as though Meurisse just wants to push everyone’s buttons to see what happens, even if it means his film is less commercial as a result. By the end, whether his guns are plastic or not, we certainly know that Meurisse is definitely not playing.

Reviewed on: 02 Jun 2024
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Plastic Guns packshot
A case of mistaken identity fuels a twisted satire.

Director: Jean-Christophe Meurisse

Writer: Jean-Christophe Meurisse

Starring: Jonathan Cohen, Laurent Stocker, Charlotte Laemmel, Delphine Baril

Year: 2024

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: France

Festivals:

Cannes 2024

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