Requiem for a Killer: Film Review

Innocuous assassin tale is ripe for a rewrite, and perhaps a remake.

Following a steady line of female assassin flicks, French writer-director Jerome Le Gris has all the elements in hand to concoct an appealing mix of high heels and high tension, yet this is a botched thriller with practically zero punch.

PARIS — Godard once said that all you need for a movie is “a girl and a gun.” One would think this would apply to a film that’s actually about a hit girl, yet the makers of Requiem for a Killer (Requiem pour une tueuse) somehow decided to leave out the “gun” part. The result is a botched thriller with practically zero punch.

Co-producer StudioCanal will release in France and handle international sales, which should be limited to Francophone slots and local DVD bins. Otherwise, given the way Hollywood has lately pounced on French films to spawn remakes like The Tourist and The Next Three Days, there may be a U.S. version (and, one hopes, a better handled one) coming eventually to a theater near you.

Following a steady line of female assassin flicks ranging from La Femme Nikita to almost anything recently starring Angelina Jolie, freshman writer-director Jerome Le Gris has all the elements in hand to concoct an appealing mix of high heels and high tension. But it’s clear from the opening scene, in which femme fatale Lucrece (Melanie Laurent) decides to off her victim by administering him a poisoned wafer during a church mess, that this will not be your typical shoot ‘em-up.

Indeed, Lucrece’s M.O. is to slip her targets an array of deadly Mickeys, which she takes along on her next mission, set in a Swiss chateau during an international musical festival. Posing as an opera singer — she has real pipes — Lucrece tries to take down Alexander Child (Christopher Stills), a baritone who owns a tract of land that’s desperately wanted by a British oil firm. If spiking Alexander’s glass of wine becomes a tricky affair (and laughable, though it’s unclear whether this was intentional), matters are further complicated by a secret agent (Clovis Cornillac) posing as a classical guitarist.

Le Gris has clearly studied his Hitchcock. References here include Notorious (the wine cellar scene) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (the Albert Hall concert scene), not to mention his star’s platinum blond hair. What he forgot to study was the content of those movies because Requiem for a Killer lacks any subtext whatsoever. Things get so muddled that Lucrece’s boss (Tcheky Karyo) wonders aloud, “What the hell are we still doing here?” It’s a question the film seems to be asking itself.

In a strange amalgam of her roles in The Concert and Inglourious Basterds, Laurent is mostly seen either singing Handel or trying to murder somebody. Her character has virtually no depth to speak of.

For what’s supposed to be a high-class suspense movie, the widescreen lensing by Antoine Monod (The Last Flight) is shoddy in parts, and certain sequences look more like low-grade HD than the 35mm listed in the end credits.

Opened: In France on Feb. 23
Production companies: Alter Films, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema
Cast: Melanie Laurent, Clovis Cornillac, Tcheky Karyo, Xavier Gallais, Christopher Stills, Corrado Invernizzi
Director-screenwriter: Jerome Le Gris
Producer: Alain Terzian
Executive producer: Thierry Muscat
Director of photography: Antoine Monod
Production designer: Maamar Ech-Cheikh
Music: Jiri Heger, Anne-Sophie Versnaeyen, Regis Vogelene
Costume designer: Catherine Rigault
Editor: Claire Fieschi
Sales Agent: StudioCanal
No rating, 91 minutes