Friday, February 12, 2010

prison: a non-prophet organisation

Despite the fact that newcomer Tahar Rahim looks suspiciously like ex-England goalie David Seaman in a dodgy tracksuit, this trilingual lock-‘em-up offering from French director Jacques Audiard came up trumps at Cannes thanks to a killer soundtrack, Oscar-worthy central performances, and a convoluted plot more macho than Mr. T doing bicep curls in a bath of raw steak.

Beardy Corsican mobster César (Niels Arestrup) takes volatile Arab kid Malik El Djebena under his wing, only to **SPOILER ALERT** teach him the dubious lesson that accepting a blowjob in jail is a surefire way to check out early. Though Malik ain’t the sharpest tool in the book – note to self: ten kilos of hash should be left OUTSIDE the supermarket – his gift for languages enables him to absorb Cesar’s underworld savvy, set up a competing drug cartel from Prison HQ, and… oh, you can guess the rest.

The old David vs. Goliath setup is a formula more tried and tested than Cow & Gate baby milk, and though it’s more a question of ‘how’ rather than ‘when’, Malik’s eventual revenge on bullying César is a masterclass in restraint – and all the more effective for it. Factor in a festival-friendly dose of freakiness in the form of a Arab ghost with a penchant for setting his fingers on fire, an educational flick through the '100 most inventive ways to top your cellmates' manual, and it’s one in the eye for a recent spate of disappointing gangster movies that included Vincent Cassel’s Mesrine failing to live up to its promise, and Michael Mann snorefest Public Enemies failing to do anything whatsoever.

Right, I’m off to wedge a razor into my gums.

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