Red Lights

Red Lights


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

The French have always had a thing for the crime thriller in whatever form, from the days of Feuillade through Clouzot to Chabrol to the likes of L'Appartement, Harry, He's Here To Help and Roberto Succo in more recent years. Succo's director Cedric Kahn moves his attention from the more Americain subject of the true-life serial killer to that most French of genre authors Georges Simenon.

The results are satisfactory.

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Helene (Carole Bouquet) and Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) seem mismatched. She is a beautiful, high-flying corporate lawyer. He, balding and nondescript, works in insurance and is, by now, used to being taken for granted. His coping mechanism is drink. First a few beers, as he waits for Helene, late as always, to arrive and then a whisky or two, as he takes the car out for petrol.

And so it goes as they start the long drive, Antoine stopping to refuel in more ways than one. Caught up in their own domestic disputes, neither pays much attention to the news of an escaped fugitive, with Helene soon noticing Antoine's less than sober state.

They stop once more. Antoine gets delayed by a friendly drunk and returns to find Helene has left. Frantic, he determines that she's caught the train to the next town and races after it, but arrives 20 minutes too late.

Another bar beckons. This time, it's Antoine's turn to play the friendly drunk, as he buys a drink for the taciturn mec next to him and tries to strike up a conversation. The man leaves, then approaches Antoine in the parking lot, looking for a lift.

Needless to say, Antoine agrees.

Needless to say, his passenger is the wanted man...

Though it's Bouquet's name that will do more to boost the box office, this is really Darroussin's film. Always a reliable performer within an ensemble - Robert Guegedian's La Ville Est Tranquille and Cedric Klapisch's Un Air De Famille spring to mind - here he is given the opportunity/challenge of carrying a film on his own. It's an admirable success, as if channelling the character actor's frustrations into this downtrodden, worm-about-to-turn, Everyman role.

Kahn treats his actors generously, avoiding obvious shocks and unnecessary stylistic flourishes in favour of a slow-burn menace, whether mixing the sound in the bar to emphasise the constant drone of traffic outside, progressively isolating the couple from one another and the space through which they are travelling, or applying a few more expressionistic and surreastic touches, like the upsidedown cow, as Antoine drowns his sorrows once more in a small town nightclub complete with siren-like signage.

The only questionable aspect is the too-neat resolution. Though a case could be made that it's in accord with a narrative, where all else is signposted well in advance and logic goes out the window in the case of the futigive not exactly keeping his head down, it lets both character and audience off the hook that bit too much. Still, not enough to completely ruin an otherwise solid tale of ordinary madness.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2004
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A mismatched married couple become entangled with a fugitive of the run.
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Director: Cedric Kahn

Writer: Cedric Kahn, Laurience Ferreira Barbosa, Gilles Marchand, based on the novel by Georges Simenon

Starring: Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Carole Bouquet, Vincent Deniard, Charline Paul, Jean-Pierre Gos

Year: 2004

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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