'Belleville Cop' ('Le Flic de Belleville'): Film Review

Courtesy of Metropolitan FilmExport
A pale copy.

French star Omar Sy ('The Intouchables') teams up with Luis Guzman in this throwback action-comedy directed by Rachid Bouchareb ('Days of Glory').

The concept and poster art may be similar, but otherwise there's a chasm as wide as the Atlantic Ocean separating the new and unofficial French Beverly Hills Cop remake, entitled Belleville Cop (Le Flic de Belleville), from the original.

For starters, the 1984 Eddy Murphy hit was, and still is, pretty hilarious, while this film isn't. And although Gallic star Omar Sy (The Intouchables) has a likable presence and a generous laugh, which he's used well in the past, he can't hack it on the level of Murphy, providing a few fun moments but nothing that's downright funny.

Also, simply in terms of plot, this version — directed by Rachid Bouchareb (Days of Glory), who co-wrote the script with Larry Gross (48 Hrs.) and Marion Doussot (Number One) — is eye-rollingly simplistic, as if the whole story has been sketched out on the back of a napkin and never taken further. It's a B-level throwback to the 1980s with zero sophistication or irony, offering up a few shout-outs to the epoch — Sy sports a Miami Vice T-shirt at one point — but ultimately feeling like it was made back then and haphazardly dug up in a DVD bargain bin. (Strangely enough, Bouchareb takes an "original idea by" screen credit for this unoriginal concoction.)

In fact, there already exists a good '80s action-comedy homage made in France: it's called On the Other Side of the Tracks and stars Omar Sy as well, though it's conceptually closer to 48 Hrs. than to Cop, cleverly exploiting class differences between Paris and its surrounding banlieue. That film, released in 2013, was a sizable hit at home and grossed $25 million worldwide. It's hard to see Belleville Cop doing anywhere near those numbers — it only pulled in 250,000 admissions for week one — marking another big-budget flop (following 2017's Dr. Knock) for Sy.

From its cheesy opening kung fu fight, set in the Belleville neighborhood of the film's title (which is one of several Chinatowns in Paris) to a deadly restaurant shootout that seems to have been directly lifted from Michael Cimino's Year of the Dragon, there's nothing that feels new about Bouchareb's unwieldy $17 million affair — if it's not the unlikely pairing of Sy, who plays a jocular Parisian cop nicknamed Baaba, with Luis Guzman, who plays a washed up Miami detective named Ricardo Garcia.

The two get partnered together when Baaba heads to Florida to track down the men behind the shooting, who are linked to an international drug ring fronted by an evil African diplomat (Eriq Ebouaney). As it turns out, Garcia arrested the diplomat's wife (Maimouna Gueye) when she nearly ran him over with her Lambo at the start of the film. So put two and two together and you get, well, a storyline worthy of a Blue's Clues episode that takes way too long — nearly two full hours — to get resolved.

Sy and Guzman do provide some decent chemistry as their characters try (and more often than not, fail) to communicate in English, gradually warming up to one another and inevitably saving the day. But instead of underlining innate cultural differences or highlighting the absurd contrast in wealth between Miami Beach and northern Paris, Belleville Cop simply skirts along on its pitch without any real development, making random shout-outs to other, better movies (even Bad Boys gets mentioned) amid lots of lifeless gags.

There is one so-so running joke involving the fact that Baaba and Garcia seem to be more enaromored with their own mothers than with any of the bikini-clad girls they meet, and you can't help but sort of like these two losers for what they are: mama's boys with good hearts. But they also have way too much flat dialogue to contend with, and Bouchareb really should have invested more in a strong script rather than splurging on all the helicopter shots of the Miami skyline — not to mention an actual helicopter scene set in West Africa.

His movie feels bigger than it is, with pricey set-pieces that are slickly photographed by DP Alain Duplantier (Point Blank) and plenty of location hopping to keep the viewer engaged. Yet what made the original work was not its scope, but rather the charisma of its lead and all the R-rated fish-out-of-water humor, both of which are absent here. Any resemblance to the real Beverly Hills Cop is, as the saying goes, purely coincidental.

Production companies: Tessalit Productions, David Films, Metropolitan FilmExport, TF1 Films Production Korokoro
Cast: Omar Sy, Luis Guzman, Biyouna, Diem Bguyen, Eriq Ebouaney
Director: Rachid Bouchareb
Screenwriters: Richard Bouchareb, Larry Gross, Marion Doussot, based on an original idea by Rachid Bouchareb
Producers: Jean Brehat, Rachid Bouchareb, Muriel Merlin
Director of photography: Alain Duplantier
Production designers: Stephane Becimol Olivier Seiler
Editors: Yannick Kergoat, Vincent Tabaillon
Composer: Eric Neveux
Casting director: Justine Leocadie
Sales: Lionsgate

In French, English, Spanish
111 minutes