‘Fast Convoy’ (‘Le Convoi’): Film Review

Fast Convoy still   - H 2016
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures France
Fast, but no so furious.

Benoit Magimel (‘The Piano Teacher’) hits the road in this high-octane thriller.

Like the long highway that takes its team of drug runners from the south of Spain to the French border, Fast Convoy (Le Convoi) is a high-speed, extremely straightforward road thriller with some great driving but not a whole lot of brains behind the wheel.

Stylishly directed by Gallic genre junkie Frederic Schoendoerffer (Secret Agents), and starring Benoit Magimel (The Piano Teacher) as a criminal who hits a few too many bumps while trying to outrun the law, this Paramount Pictures France release should find modest action at the local box office, with theatrical possibilities in a handful of territories and a stronger showing on various VOD thoroughfares.

Hitting the ground running (or rolling) and never letting up until the gas runs out, Schoendeorffer and regular co-writer Yann Brion offer up the kind of pedal-to-the-metal affair usually dashed off by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, albeit with less humor and some welcome – though mostly unsuccessful – attempts at characterization.

In fact, Besson already tackled a similar subject when his company distributed the Roschdy Zem starrer Go Fast back in 2008 – a film also dealing with fast cars shuttling drugs from Malaga (where they arrive via boat from Morocco) to the suburbs of Paris.

The modus operandi is similar in Fast Convoy, with more emphasis on the “convoy” part as the stoical roadster, Alex (Magimel), takes up the rear of a four-vehicle motorcade attempting to transport a wide load of hashish into France.

But the team hits a major pothole when the Audi holding the stash gets into a firefight with Spanish cops, leaving co-pilot Majid (Foed Amara) dead and upstart driver Elyes (Mahdi Belemlih) forced to take a hostage, Nadia (Reem Kherici), in order to escape.

The fact that the crew's sole captive also happens to be French – this on a highway transporting thousands of cars through Spain – is one of several head-scratching moments in a movie that often strains credulity, especially in a final act where tempers flare, guns go blazing and Nadia winds up suffering from a severe case of Stockholm syndrome.

Before that, Schoendoerffer tries to create a form of tense camaraderie among the drivers, most of whom are of North African origin and hail from the Paris banlieue. One running gag involving a caucasian French gangsta (Leon Garel) converting to Islam is perhaps meant to be taken as social commentary, but most of the banter feels both heavy-handed and purely incidental – background noise to accompany all the cool driving.

In terms of the latter, the filmmakers definitely provide the viewer with enough impressive road action, even if DP Vincent Gallot (different spelling – no relation), who worked as a camera assistant on Taken, dips far too much into the filter box, with the daytime scenes drenched in sepia sunlight and the night sequences smothered in thick layers of blue.

Like much in Fast Convoy, the cinematography often feels like overkill, though it doesn’t necessarily hamper a film that kicks off at 100 mph and manages to maintain that pace for most of the running time. Schoendoerffer and his team certainly deserve credit for keeping things going at top speed, but they never really figure out how to apply the brakes.   

Production companies: Carcharodon, Orange Studio, Cinefrance 1888, D8 Films, Rhones-Alpes Cinema
Cast: Benoit Magimel, Reem Kherici, Tewfik Jallab, Mahdi Belemlih, Amir El Kacem
Director: Frederic Schoendoerffer
Screenwriters: Frederic Schoendoerffer, Yann Brion
Producer: Eric Neve
Director of photography: Vincent Gallot
Production designer: Franck Benzech
Costume designer: Claire Lacaze
Editor: Sophie Fourdrinoy
Composer: Thibault Quillet
Casting director: Mathilde Snodgrass
Sales: Indie Sales

In French
102 minutes