The Films of Jean-François Richet
All About Love
Assault on Precinct 13 (January 17/05)
Based on John Carpenter's classic 1976 suspense flick, Assault on Precinct 13 follows Ethan Hawke's Jake Roenick as he and several other cops endeavor to spend one last night in their precinct before it's torn down - with problems ensuing as a bus full of criminals, led by Laurence Fishburne's Marion Bishop, arrives on the scene. Assault on Precinct 13 has been directed by Jean-Francois Richet, a filmmaker whose hyperkinetic style effectively ensures that the film will never be confused with its predecessor. Working from a screenplay by James DeMonaco, Richet doesn't waste any time in getting to the action - often placing his camera right there in the middle of the fray and infusing such moments with jittery cinematography and rapid-fire edits. Exacerbating the less-than-coherent atmosphere is the fact that essentially the entire film occurs at night, smack-dab in the middle of a snowstorm. More than anything else, the movie is just too dark - literally - often making it impossible to discern what's going on. Richet is clearly going for a Panic Room sort of vibe, but director of photography Robert Gantz is clearly no Darius Khondji (the ceaseless darkness eventually becomes oppressive because of this difference). Still, the movie remains kind of engaging - mostly due to the efforts of an unexpectedly stellar cast, which also includes Brian Dennehy, Gabriel Byrne, and underrated character actor Matt Craven. Hawke and Fishburne deliver performances that are far better than one might expect from a movie of this sort, with the latter essentially riffing on The Matrix's Morpheus (or maybe he's just become one of those actors who can't help but be cool). DeMonaco's screenplay indiscriminately kills likeable characters, one of the few surprises offered by the film. Assault on Precinct 13 is sporadically effective but far too incoherent to warrant a full-blown recommendation. Aficionados of violent flicks would be well advised to check it out, though, if only because movies this bloody have become incredibly rare (the film seems to be going for some kind of a record involving characters that get shot in the forehead).
Public Enemy Number One: Part One
Click here for review.
Public Enemy Number One: Part Two (January 2/11)
Picking up where Public Enemy Number One: Part One left off, Public Enemy Number One: Part Two follows notorious gangster Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) as he continues his pattern of criminal endeavors and prison breaks in his home town of France - with his efforts assisted by a fiercely loyal girlfriend (Ludivine Sagnier's Sylvie Jeanjacquot) and a quiet yet efficient partner (Mathieu Amalric's Francois Besse). There's little doubt that filmmaker Jean-François Richet does a superb job of immediately capturing the viewer's interest, as the director, working from a script cowritten with Abdel Raouf Dafri, kicks the proceedings off with a series of action-oriented interludes that effectively establish an atmosphere of palpable excitement (which isn't that surprising, really, given that the opening half hour features bank robberies, car chases, police shootouts, and prison escapes). Cassel's magnetic and downright electrifying performance certainly goes a long way towards sustaining the film's engrossing vibe, and it's worth noting that the movie doesn't palpably start to run out of steam until its well past the halfway mark. Public Enemy Number One: Part Two's transformation from a balls-to-the-wall action flick to an episodic drama ensures that, like its predecessor, the film ultimately feels as though its been padded out to justify the saga's two parts, which effectively ensures that both movies would have been better served had they been edited down into one consistently engrossing thriller. Still, Public Enemy Number One: Part Two is, for the most part, an engaging piece of work that answers any and every question one might have had about Jacques Mesrine - except, curiously enough, why the police chose to take him down in a manner resembling a mob hit.
One Wild Moment
Blood Father (June 9/17)
Blood Father casts Mel Gibson as John Link, a tattoo artist with a violent past who is forced to spring into action after his wayward daughter (Erin Moriarty's Lydia) runs afoul of vicious, blood-thirsty drug dealers (including Diego Luna's Jonah). It's an irresistibly gritty and pared-down premise that would seem to lend itself naturally to a fast-paced thrill-ride, and yet director Jean-François Richet, working from Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff's screenplay, proves unable to infuse Blood Father with the driving momentum that one might've expected - with the movie, for the most part, lurching from scene to scene with all the grace of an elephant at the ballet. The film's less-than-engrossing atmosphere is especially disappointing given the immensely engrossing nature of Gibson's work here, as the actor, sporting an admittedly astonishing beard, delivers an engaging, tough-as-nails performance that remains a constant highlight within the otherwise middling proceedings. (It's worth noting, too, that Richet does an effective job of transforming Blood Father's scarce action sequences into riveting, brutal set pieces, with, especially, an interlude set in and around a car standing as an obvious high-water-mark for the movie.) It is, in the end, impossible to label Blood Father as anything less than a massive missed opportunity, with the effectiveness of the movie's individual elements ultimately unable to gel into a cohesive, consistent whole.