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July 2010

MR 73

cast: Daniel Auteuil, Olivia Bonamy, Phillippe Nahon, Guy Lecluyse, and Catherine Marchal

director: Olivier Marchal

120 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
review by Christopher Geary

MR 73

Louis (Daniel Auteuil, The Second Wind, Hidden) is a cop in Marseilles. He's a drunk, frequently wasted on the job, but - perhaps foolishly - he maintains a steadfast moral dimension that makes him more of a hindrance than an asset to his colleagues in the police force, many of whom would prefer to just get on with their cynical scams and thieving instead of bothering to actually solve crimes, particularly the case of a series of rapes and murders which leave detectives, Louis included, stumped as to exactly how the serial killer gains entry to female victims' homes, or even how the killer chooses his victims.

Justine (Olivia Bonamy, Bloody Mallory, Them) is a barmaid, and a surviving victim of a much earlier crime. She was orphaned when an intruder brutally murdered both of her parents. Even now, having witnessed that brutality, she's understandably distraught because the convicted killer, Subra (Phillippe Nahon, Switchblade Romance), is due for parole, and she hopes that apparently honourable Louis, who worked on the case of the double-homicide of her parents, 25 years ago, can help her convince the relevant authorities that Subra is still a threat - to her, at least - and should remain in prison.

"A cop's truth can be unpleasant." This solid - if rather unexceptional - policier, is made by former policeman Olivier Marchal, who directs it as the concluding part of a thematic trilogy, including 36 Quai Des Orfevres (2004), and Gangsters (2002). Although Gangsters (which stars Anne Parillaud) is not currently available on DVD with English subtitles, 36 (the film's full title is a Parisian address) was released by the now defunct Tartan. 36 also features Auteuil, alongside G�rard Depardieu, and both actors deliver great performances.

Based on a true story, MR 73 (aka: The Last Deadly Mission) - the original title refers to a type of revolver favoured by elite French tactical police - is not a crime film like typical Hollywood cop movie productions. It's a drama of corruption and redemption which, mostly, adheres to a consistent reality that's downbeat and sees protagonists haunted by the past, and failing in their struggles to cope with the present and face the rather dismal and depressing future. However, there's one crippling flaw in the storyline. It centres on a peculiar sort of philosophical outlook, concerning the law and criminal punishment, that's clearly identified by the film's narrative, although the director makes no obvious comment upon it.

The issue concerns the familiar prison yard story of the hardcore felon who 'finds god' while incarcerated, and somehow manages to convince a parole board that he's a reformed character on the basis of his repentant conversion to Christianity (or whatever church is most popular in the prison's locality). As an atheist, I have a big problem with this because it seems very odd to judge an individual's moral character based on their religious beliefs, moreso when the person is a convicted killer. Should any such cases even merit a parole hearing?

A killer who claims to be rehabilitated by newfound religious faith deserves only the most stringent psychiatric examination, and suitable treatment, for what rationality and modern science confirms is simply just another delusion, not serious consideration for an early release on parole. So we come to the movie's flaw of pure idiocy. Yes, they let the dangerous nutcase go free! This, of course, reveals a greater problem, which neither the film's story or this review of it has the scope to address... Why is religious faith still considered a virtue?

Nevertheless, that plot twist doesn't ruin the film, but it does spoil the overall result, and contributes to the dreadful clich�s of stoic heroism and lone self-sacrifice that conspire to weaken the film's closing sequence. MR 73 is definitely worth seeing for Auteuil's portrait of grouchy, slovenly, alcoholic stupor, and his wrestling with the constants of despair and powerlessness while living in a bleak and unappealing world.



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