Paris Countdown: Film Review

Glossy atmospherics and fine performances don't compensate for the overly familiar aspects of this Paris-set noirish crime drama.

Two former criminals are hunted down by their betrayed accomplice in Edgar Marie's debut feature.

A vicious criminal newly sprung from prison seeks to unleash violent revenge on his former partners in Edgar Marie’s debut feature. Slickly executed with glossy, neon-drenched cinematography and a throbbing techno-music score, Paris Countdown sacrifices substance for stylishness, as has become the distressing tendency of so many recent crime dramas. But its fast pacing, compelling lead performances and frequent doses of action prevent boredom from settling in.

The proceedings begin with a botched Mexican drug deal in which French nightclub-owner partners Victor (Jacques Gamblin) and Milan (Olivier Marchal) are apprehended and pressured by the police to give up their accomplice, Serki (a truly scary Carlo Brandt). It’s not long before they cooperate, thanks to the power drill employed as persuasion.

Cut to six years later, when much to their dismay Victor and Milan discover that Serki has gotten out of prison and is intent on payback. The two men, who have not kept up with each other in the intervening years, find themselves fighting for their lives even as Serki begins targeting their loved ones as well.

Director Marie attempts to infuse the familiar, formulaic plotline with heavy doses of stylization that mostly prove distracting. The violence-drenched, noirish proceedings rarely prove galvanizing, and it’s only the strong screen presence and chemistry of the two leads that manage to maintain viewer interest. Marchal -- whose interesting resume includes being a former policeman and an acclaimed film director himself (36 Quai des Orfevres) -- delivers a particularly pungent turn as the cynical, middle-aged Milan who immediately lights up a cigarette even while still winded after a foot chase.

The film does boast impressive atmospherics, with the beautiful Paris environs having rarely looked more menacing onscreen. Technical credits are excellent, including the immersive sound design and soundtrack that succeed in ratcheting up the tension.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 8 (Screen Media Films)

Production: Exterieur Jour, LGM Cinema, Le Pacte, Nexus Factory, Univergroup

Cast: Olivier Marchal, Jacques Gamblin, Carlo Brandt, Reda Kateb, Igor Skreblin, Francis Renaud, Anne Charrier, James Kazma

Director/screenwriter: Alain Marie

Producers: Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Matthie Guillot, Cyril Hauguel, Jean Labadie

Director of photography: Danny Elsen

Editor: Carlo Rizzi

Production designer: Patrick Deschesne

Costume designer: Agnes Falque

Not rated, 93 min.