Dobermann (May 7/03)
There's a lot to like and admire about Dobermann - mostly in the realm of outrageous visuals - but the film suffers from a pedestrian screenplay that relies mostly on predictable story elements and stock characters.
Dobermann follows the exploits of a group of criminals, lead by the violent and charismatic Yann Le Pentec (Vincent Cassel). Pursuing Le Pentec, also known as Dobermann, is Inspector Sauveur Christini - a cop that's apparently gone mad from years of chasing this elusive thief. Dobermann and his crew - which includes his girlfriend, Nat (Monica Bellucci), a deaf gypsy - are planning a heist that will make them all very rich, which obviously piques the interest of Christini.
Dobermann's been directed by Jan Kounen, a relative newcomer whose flair for over-the-top stylistics saves the film from becoming an all-out bore. The script, by Joel Houssin, is a mishmash of virtually every action-movie cliche - from the far-too-quirky characters to the well-worn heist plot. There have been plenty of heist movies that have relied on conventions of the genre, but Dobermann doesn't do anything new or interesting; there's nothing here that hasn't been done before (and better, too).
Even if you're able to look past the textbook plot, the characters don't exactly have a whole lot to offer. Dobermann's crew is made up of the most generic group imaginable, from the dim-witted strongman (who spends the majority of the film mourning his recently deceased puppy) to the tough-as-nails woman that actually manages to surprise a character or two with her fierceness (which is in itself a cliche). Karyo's Inspector Christini is the usual cop-with-a-grudge-against-the-protagonist type, and not only does he not go by the book, but he has no qualms endangering the lives of innocent civilians (not to mention newborn babies!) Admittedly, a lot of the performances here are fun - Cassel and Karyo, in particular, seem as though they're having a grand old time - and Kounen's wild visual pyrotechnics ensure that the film is almost always interesting just to look at.
But that's just not enough to elevate the lackluster screenplay, which tries way too hard to come off as clever and hip. Still, as far as action flicks go, you could certainly do worse - Cassel's presence alone is enough to warrant a mild recommendation.