Chrysalis

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PARIS -- "Chrysalis" from debuting director Julien Leclercq is a sci-fi thriller in the tradition of "Blade Runner" with plenty of action, not all of it comprehensible, and impressive visuals. The plot is tortuous and larded with cliches, but there are enough compensatory pleasures for the movie to appeal to young audiences.

Chrysalis is the name given to an ingenious piece of cyber-technology in 2025 that can read a person's memories and download them onto a chip. The criminal underworld, in the shape of Bulgarian hoodlums, are determined to seize Chrysalis for their own nefarious purposes. Hard-boiled Eurocop David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel), whose wife, a fellow officer, has died in a shoot-out with the Bulgarians, has been called in to sort things out. He soon finds himself pitted against the villainous Dimitri Nikolov (Alain Figlarz).

However, Leclercq withholds the crucial information about Chrysalis until we're an hour into the film. What's more, the main action is interwoven with the story of Manon (Melanie Thierry), a teenager who has been badly disfigured in a car crash. She is undergoing surgery at a clinic run by her mother, Professor Brugen (Marthe Keller), all of which makes the early sequences difficult to decipher.

The trail leads Hoffman and his able sidekick Marie Becker (Marie Guillard) to the clinic where it turns out that Professor Burgen is a ruthless operator who has a stake in the memory game, too. She also appears to be involved in Nikolov's human trafficking scam. After the showdown with Nikolov -- the second of two brilliantly orchestrated hand-to-hand fight scenes -- Hoffman is able to stride off into the sunset.

Except there is no sunset because in Leclercq's vision, Paris -- the City of Light -- has become a grim, gray dystopia where the sun rarely shines. Filming in near-monochrome -- blue, with the palest of flesh tints -- the director creates a claustrophobic world in which technology has suppressed feeling. Jean-Philippe Moreaux's sets and Thomas Hardmeier's cinematography are superb. Moreaux in particular has taken great pains to imagine what the world of tomorrow might look like, and his research into hyper-communication mechanisms, home automation and intelligent-space technology has paid off handsomely onscreen.

Movie buffs will enjoy picking out references to (or borrowings from) other movies -- "A Clockwork Orange," "Minority Report" and "Matrix" are in the mix -- and the mother-and-daughter surgical subplot forms an intended tribute to Georges Franju's 1960 horror classic "Eyes Without a Face."

Dupontel is watchable as the cold-eyed action hero who only at the end allows himself a wan smile. The stylized fight scenes blocked out by Figlarz -- who also worked on "The Bourne Identity" -- are terrific.

CHRYSALIS
Gaumont
Credits:
Director: Julien Leclercq
Screenwriters: Julien Leclercq, Franck Philippon
Producer: Franck Chorot
Executive producer: Jean-Philippe Blime
Director of photography: Thomas Hardmeier
Production designer: Jean-Philippe Moreaux
Music: Jean-Jacques Hertz, Francois Roy
Costume designer: Fabienne Katany
Editor: Thierry Hoss
Cast:
Hoffman: Albert Dupontel
Marie: Marie Guillard
Professor Brugen: Marthe Keller
Manon Brugen: Melanie Thierry
Clara: Estelle Lefebure
Dimitri Nikolov: Alain Figlarz
Miller Claude Perron
Running time -- 91 minutes
No MPAA rating
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