Hors normes [The Specials] (2019)

Hors normes
Director: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Writer: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Hélène Vincent, Bryan Mialoundama, Alban Ivanov, Benjamin Lesieur, Marco Locatelli, Catherine Mouchet, Frédéric Pierrot, Suliane Brahim, Lyna Khoudri, Aloïse Sauvage, Djibril Yoni
Seen on: 10.1.2020

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Malik (Reda Kateb) are best friends and also do the same job: they each run organizations that work with disabled and/or neuroatypical people, mostly autistic teens and young adults that everybody else seems to have given up on. When Bruno’s organization is being inspected again, it just adds to his overall workload and frustration. As if he hadn’t enough on his plate already, trying to do right by all of the children in his care.

I was hesitant about seeing the film, given that Intouchables has a less than great record when it comes to handling disability (I didn’t see it at the time, so my review linked above is very hype-y, but I have learned in the last decade). But since I worked with autistic children myself and since I like Cassel and Kateb, I figured I’d give it a go. I really, really, shouldn’t have. Hors normes is a sanctification of social workers that fails to take into account the perspective of the people they work with for even a second. That’s not how you make a film about such a sensitive topic. Or about any topic.

The film poster showing Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Mailk (Reda Kateb).
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Juste la fin du monde [It’s Only the End of the World] (2016)

Juste la fin du monde
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writer: Xavier Dolan
Based on: the play of the same name by Jean-Luc Lagarce
Cast: Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion CotillardLéa Seydoux, Antoine Desrochers
Seen on: 18.1.2017

Plot:
Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) hasn’t spoken to his family in years. But now that he is terminally ill, he wants to see them and let them know that he is dying, and soon. So he leaves his boyfriend in the big city and makes his way home to his mother Martine (Nathalie Baye), his older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and his wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard) – who Louis never met before – and finally his little sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux) who barely remembers him at all. But the reconciliation Louis is most likely hoping for is overshadowed by old resentments.

Juste la fin du monde is probably the weakest of the Dolan films I’ve seen so far (which is not all that many, unfortunately). It’s still above average, but I’ve come to expect more of Dolan than what the film gave me.

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Jason Bourne (2016)

Jason Bourne
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Sequel to: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, and kinda The Bourne Legacy
Based on: Robert Ludlum‘s novel (kinda)
Cast: Matt DamonAlicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd
Seen on: 12.8.2016

Plot:
Ever since he exposed the secret government program that made him what he is, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been in hiding. But his partner Nicky (Julia Stiles) hacked into the CIA and discovered that there are more programs like that and even more information about Bourne’s past than they thought at first. So she contacts him to let him know. Her hacking doesn’t go unnoticed, though. Heather (Alicia Vikander), part of CIA cyber ops, first realizes that Nicky is up to something and when she and CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) discover that Bourne is involved, they are dead set on finally getting him.

Jason Bourne delivers what you expect from the Bourne Series. So much so that you could simply watch the first film again, instead of this rather tired re-hash of things we’ve all seen before.

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Mon roi [My King] (2015)

Mon roi
Director: Maïwenn
Writer: Etienne Comar, Maïwenn
Cast: Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Cassel, Louis Garrel, Isild Le Besco, Chrystèle Saint Louis Augustin
Seen on: 3.4.2016

Plot:
Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) had a serious skiing accident and is now in rehab. This finally gives her time to reflect on her love affair with Georgio (Vincent Cassel). The two fell for each other quickly and deeply. Tony enjoyed Georgio’s exuberance, his energy and life force. He was an adventure and whisked her away. But quickly his devotion to her started to show some serious dark spots and Tony found herself in way over her head.

It’s never much fun to watch a film about an abusive relationship. Mon Roi is no exception. It’s major strength are the characters that are both well-written and well-acted, but it is too long and doesn’t bring much to the table that doesn’t feel a little too clichéd.

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Il racconto dei racconti [Tale of Tales] (2015)

Il racconto dei racconti
Director: Matteo Garrone
Writer: Edoardo Albinati, Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso
Based on: Giambattista Basile‘s fairy tale collection
Cast: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael, Bebe Cave, Stacy Martin, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees
Seen on: 2.9.2015

Plot:
The Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is desperate to have a child with her husband (John C. Reilly). But so far, all their attempts were unsuccessful. Yet another magical attempt finally brings the wished-for results, but at a price. In the meantime the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) has pretty much fucked everyone around him. But when he hears the sweet singing of a maid, he immediately falls in love. Only that the girl doesn’t want to show herself. In a third kingdom, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) has a rather unusual pet that takes away his attention from his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave) who is waiting to be married.

Il racconto dei racconti is an adaptation of 17th century fairy tales and as one can imagine, things are not necessarily for the faint of heart, nor are they very friendly to women. But Garrone crafted an entertaining, visually stunning film from them in any case.

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La belle et la bête [Beauty and the Beast] (2014)

La belle et la bête
Director: Christophe Gans
Writer: Sandra Vo-Anh, Christophe Gans
Based on: the fairy tale
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier, Yvonne Catterfeld

Plot:
After his ships sink, a rich merchant (André Dussolier) is left destitute. He has to move to a small cottage in the countryside, much to the chagrin of all his children, except Belle (Léa Seydoux), who loves life on the country. One day, after trying to get their money back in the city, the merchant becomes lost in the woods. He happens upon a castle where nobody seems to be, but a rich feast is there for him to take. But when he also tries to take a rose for Belle, a beast (Vincent Cassel) appears and demands that the merchant be his prisoner for the theft. The merchant agrees but asks to see his children one last time, a wish the beast grants. But when Belle hears about the sacrifice, she offers herself in her father’s stead, setting a whole string of events in motion.

Beauty and the Beast is a problematic story (hello, consent issues and Stockholm syndrome!), but I honestly thought that I had seen the worst possible version of it in Beastly. Well, La belle et la bête fights extremely hard for that spot.

labelleetlabete[SPOILERS]

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A Dangerous Method (2011)

A Dangerous Method
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Based on: Christopher Hampton’s play, which is based on John Kerr’s book
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon

Plot:
Carl Gustav Jung (Michael Fassbender) is a young psychologist much in awe of Sigmund Freud‘s (Viggo Mortensen) work. When Jung gets a new patient, the young Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), he starts a psychoanalysis with her and he also begins to correspond with Freud about the case. But Jung soon discovers his attraction to Spielrein (and vice versa) and when Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel) encourages him to give in, he can’t really resist.

A Dangerous Method is an almost perfect movie, interesting, not afraid of depth, but never gets too overbearing. Additionally, it has a good cast and it’s entertaining. Chapeau once again, Mr. Cronenberg.

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Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan is the newest film by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.

Plot:
Nina (Natalie Portman) is a dancer in a struggling ballet company. Its director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) decides to put on a version of Swan Lake where the White Swan and the Black Swan are played by the same person. Nina auditions like everybody else, but in her need to control everything, she never seems to be able to really get the sensual seduction of the Black Swan. The pressure on her rises – from Thomas, from new company member Lily (Mila Kunis) with whom Nina strikes up a competition, from Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), but most of all from Nina herself.

My expectations for this film was way, way, way up high. Not only is it the newest film by Aronofsky and stars two of my favorite actors (Portman and Cassel) and I hadn’t heard a single bad word about it in advance. Expectations couldn’t get any higher. And how completely satisfying is it that all of them were met?

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L’ennemi public n°1 (Mesrine: Part 2 – Public Enemy #1) (2008)

L’ennemi public n°1 (Mesrine: Part 2 – Public Enemy #1) is part two (of two) of a biopic about Jacques Mesrine, directed by Jean-François Richet and starring Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Amalric. [Review of the first movie here.]

Plot:
L’ennemi public n°1 starts with Mesrine’s (Vincent Cassel) death, then goes back for a while and unroll things until he dies (again). This time round, we see trials and prisone time for Mesrine, but also break-outs and political activism. There’s a little bit of Catch Me If You Can going on with police officer Broussard (Olivier Gourmet), and other stuff.
[If this plot summary sounds a little flighty, it is… but more on that later.]

The first part was good, though it had some problems. The second part was problem, though it had some goods. The cast is still strong, but the plot was all over the place, the pacing was off and I was more bored than anything else. Maybe that’s because they were trying to go for a light-hearted movie [at least compared to part one] with a really heavy-hearted topic. Just didn’t work.

l-ennemi-public-n-1

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L’instinct de mort (Mesrine: Part 1 – Death Instinct) (2008)

L’instinct de mort (Mesrine: Part 1 – Death Instinct) is part one (of two) of a biopic about Jacques Mesrine, directed by Jean-François Richet and starring Vincent Cassel, Cécile De France and Gérard Depardieu. L’instinct de mort follows Mesrine lives from the start of his criminal career to the showdown of events in Canada. [The second part starts there and continues to his death.]

Plot:
Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) was a soldier in the Algerian war where he witnessed gruesome events, which might or might not have been a trigger for his following ruthlessness. Back in France, he started working for a small gangster boss (Gérard Depardieu). He did pretty much everything from robbing banks to murdering and beating people. After getting arrested, trying to lead a normal life and going back to his criminal ways, Mesrine got into trouble with another group of gangsters and eventually fled with his mistress Jeanne (Cécile de France), first to the US, then to Canada. In Canada he met Jean-Paul Mercier (Roy Dupuis) who was part of the Front de libération du Québec. After a failed kidnapping, all three of them got arrested and Mesrine was sentenced to ten years in prison. But he escaped, robbed banks and later tried to break out some other prisoners of the same prison but failed there.  Shortly before he returnes to France, the movie ends.

Mesrine was an interesting character and Vincent Cassel is an amazing cast. But the movie is definitely not for everyone – it’s pretty frank with its sex scenes in the first half and exceptionally brutal in the second half. No, that’s not true. It’s brutal throughout the whole movie. The cutting and the directing weren’t great, but it definitely made me want to see part two.

Mesrine

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