Saturday, October 03, 2009

[French Film Festival] 13m²

Are You In or Out?

The reason why I decided to watch this was because of the rather intriguing premise, but what was delivered fell short on some accounts, and seemed to overstretch itself without enough fuel to run a full feature.

Written, directed and starring Barthelemy Grossmann in the lead role of small time thug Jose, we learn that he's being hunted by much bigger fish because of money owed, and being down and out and always on the run doesn't bode well in keeping a girlfriend (Berenice Bejo) constantly waiting. He overhears her conversation with her brother, an armed security escort, talking about the security exposures of his armoured vehicle, and hatches a plan to steal a cool 2 million Euros within.

Since this is not a heist movie, we don't see that action sequence at all, except following the event through voice-overs, and learn that the plan has gone a little awry. Together with his collaborators Farouk (Lucien Jean-Baptiste) and Reza (Youssef Hajdi), they stay off the radar of both their community and the police in a 13m2 sized hideout, hence the title.

The film then becomes what it actually is, an examination of trust and that honour amongst thieves, as they bicker about the money, the event that transpired, and if you'd like, it became a postmortem of sorts, looking into the personalities of each character, and leaving you to guess who would likely bail out of their fragile bonds. There's tremendous money at stake, weapons in place, and a relatively foolproof plan that would work if they execute it accordingly. And that means they must last the hibernation and one another's guts for an extended period of time. But we know that human nature will dictate that rules will be broken, and tensions rising because it's winner takes all should someone determine that they have the upper hand over the others.

Alas the flaw of the film is that it went out into the gritty streets too often, akin to breaking its own rule of lying low, as the film betrayed its own premise by taking the characters outside, and destroying the tension that it tried hard to establish. The character of Jose, ridden with guilt, also failed to establish a connection for an audience to sympathize with, because he started off as quite the prick and stayed that way, and without witnessing first hand the traumatic incident, it became nothing more than an attempted showcase by Barthelemy Grossmann to show off his acting chops.

The finale too felt a little too rushed as it highlighted the mantra that crime does not pay. But thankfully it knew when to pull the plug rather than allowing it to drag out for too long. The character motivations do get a little muddled as well in the end, especially with what Jose chose to do, so you'd pretty much figure that there might be an alternate ending to the one being presented.

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