Blind Spot (Doudege Wenkel): Film Review

This taut police thriller hardly breaks new ground, but offers up strong turns and a few decent twists.

Christophe Wagner’s Luxembourg-set policier is its country’s official bid for a Foreign Language Academy Award.

Most of us know Luxembourg as a haven for investment banking and Franco-Belgian co-productions, but hardly as a setting for noirish crime thrillers. Writer-director Christophe Wagner (Luxembourg, USA) tries to undo that stereotype with Blind Spot (Doudege Wenkel), a fairly by-the-numbers policier which benefits from meaty performances and an intricate plot that keeps the guessing game going till the end. If the result feels mostly like an above-average telefilm, the Grand Duchy’s official Oscar entry should garner its maker some renown beyond the narrow borders of his homeland, where the movie was released to critical and box office acclaim last year.

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Olivier Faber (Jules Werner) is a down-and-dirty detective first seen busting heads in the precinct locker room. After getting suspended at work and then dumped by his wife (Gintare Parulyte) at home, things take a sudden turn for the tragic when his brother, Tom (Mickey Hardt) -- also a local cop -- is found dead, with no available evidence beyond a single bullet hole and lots of unanswered questions.

Nudging his way into the investigation, Olivier soon discovers that his bro was probing a powerful finance mogul (Patrick Descamps) when he was killed, while another team learns that Tom was having a fling with a Russian prostitute (Irina Lavrinovic). If those clues point to some sort of murky international conspiracy, another plot is added involving a seasoned detective, Hastert (Andre Jung), who seems to have an agenda of his own, thwarting Olivier’s movements while pretending to abet them.

Tracking Olivier’s wavering states as he gathers more intel on Tom’s past -- and, in a rather intriguing subplot, on his own sexual identity -- Wagner and co-writer Frederic Zeimet keep their narrative lean and mean, cross-cutting between the dual investigations and throwing suspicion on a number of characters as the noose ultimately tightens around Olivier himself. If there’s nothing all that exceptional about what happens, and the tension could be greater at times, the genre material is handled in a convincing-enough manner to keep one hooked through the finale.

As a stoical inspector with serious anger management issues, Werner (Mobius) -- who looks like a Photoshop fusion between Belgian stars Francois Damiens and Matthias Schoenaerts -- aptly portrays his hero’s slide from bad to worse, and never overdoes it in the movie’s more intense moments. Vets Jung and Descamps play rather traditional, one-dimensional characters, and it’s a bit unfortunate that they wind up taking central stage in the third act.

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Action sequences are few and far between, though a nasty fight scene in a pet store makes clever use of an unusual setting. Otherwise, Wagner -- who has a background making documentaries -- provides a realistic backdrop for the suspense, with DP Jako Raybaut (Hot Hot Hot) using lots of handheld set-ups to capture central Luxembourg’s concrete maze of offices, garages and rain-swept sidewalks.

Production companies: Samsa Film, Artemis Productions
Cast: Jules Werner, Andre Jung, Brigitte Urhausen, Mickey Hardt, Patrick Descamps
Director: Christophe Wagner
Screenwriters: Christophe Wagner, Frederic Zeimet
Producer: Claude Waringo
Director of photography: Jako Raybaut
Production designer: Francoise Joset
Music: Andre Mergenthaler
Editor: Jean-Luc Simon
Sales agent: Samsa Film
No rating, 96 min.