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The Crack Magazine


Les Misérables

Director: Ladj Ly. Stars: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril ZongaI

Released over here presumably to coincide with the twentieth(!) anniversary of Matthieu Kassovitz’s incendiary ‘La Haine’, Lady Ly’s 2018 debut feature, expanded from his short of the same name, is a flawed but occasionally illuminating portrait of life in the rough and tough Paris suburbs, this time around, through the eyes of a trio of police officers. 

Idealistic cop Stéphane (Bonnard) has just moved from Cherbourg to Paris in order to join the Anti-Crime Squad in the Paris banlieue of Montfermeil. He is partnered up with the hot-headed and aggressive racist Chris (Maneti), and the more level-headed Gwada (Zonga). Tensions are already running high between the local gangs and les flics, when, during an arrest, the trio are surrounded by angry locals. The incident has been caught on drone camera, exposing their unorthodox policing style and exacerbating the situation further.

Although inspired by the Paris 2005 riots, the film feels all-too vital and relevant in the light of the BLM protests, and there’s more than a hint of ‘Do the Right Thing’ in the picture’s pressure cooker atmosphere. While Ly’s film shares the same Montfermeil locale as a segment of Victor Hugo’s book the picture lacks the multi-perspectives, and despite the raw authentic milieu, the director’s instincts frequently veer more into mainstream self-consciously ‘hard-hitting’ crime thriller than social document. The picture is at its best in its quieter moments when depicting quotidian life in all its randomness and spontaneity, and the disparate, often amusing characters the cops encounter on their rounds.

Les Miserables is playing at selected cinemas now.

David Willoughby