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La Loi Du Cochon (December 7/01)

If you were ever under the impression that only Americans can make derivative thrillers, La Loi Du Cochon (a Canadian film) quickly dispels that notion.

The film is largely set on a pig farm, where two sisters are struggling to make ends meet. The younger of the two, Bettie, has arranged a deal with a local wealthy couple in which she'll carry their baby. The other, Stephane, is a compulsive gambler, who has foolishly decided to sell a crop of marijuana planted by two local criminals to a big-time gangster type. How Stephane assumed that the local crooks would somehow not realize that their patch of pot was missing is never explained, but nevertheless, they do find out and quickly come to the realization that Stephane screwed them. This leads to a home invasion turned kidnapping, resulting in a second half that is remarkably similar to that old Humphrey Bogart movie, The Desperate Hours (though this film resembles the bad Mickey Rourke remake, instead).

Right from the opening shot, it's clear that the director, Erik Canuel, fancies himself a French-Canadian Michael Bay or Tony Scott. We're shown footage of the many pigs in their stables, while an opera piece plays in the background. Presenting an ugly image and a beautiful sound is nothing new, but that's the least of Canuel's transgressions. For no reason whatsoever, Canuel will occasionally speed up the camera to quickly get from one point to another (from inside a store to a car, for example). In the hands of a more experienced director, this probably wouldn't have worked all that well - but in the hands of a first-timer, this just smacks of a wannabe director with delusions of grandeur.

But aside from that, it's really the script that sinks La Loi Du Cochon. Screenwriter Joanne Arseneau apparently sat herself down and watched various American thrillers before putting pen to paper, because the final product resembles the sort of movie that Eric Roberts has cornered the market on. The biggest influence on Arseneau is clearly the Coen brothers' 1996 masterpiece, Fargo. Not so much in the plot - which is a mishmash of various other crime flicks - but rather in the characters and in isolated incidents throughout the movie. The biggest (and most blatantly obvious) rip-off appears in the form of the two local criminals. One is a fast-talking doofus with enough pent-up rage to choke an elephant, while the other is a tall, quiet and dangerously vicious madman. Sound familiar? And in one scene, two innocent characters attempt to outrun the doofus character by car, and just like in Fargo, the innocents eventually wind up attempting to flee by foot, only to be shot in cold blood. Then there's the ending which, not to spoil anything, is a direct descendent of Fargo's refusal to allow for honour among thieves.

La Loi Du Cochon is particularly disappointing because it's Canadian, since (let's face it) so few Canuck flicks wind up making their way to theaters. If this is the sort of film that's going to receive the scarce movie funding in this country, we'd be better off letting our neighbors to the south continue churning out films like this on a weekly basis to the straight-to-video market.

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