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RUNNING TIME 111 Minutes
• Making of Featurette
• Interview Director
• Weapons Selection Featurette
• Wardrobe Selection Featurette
• Theatrical & Teaser Trailers
The French soulmate of Michael Mann’s Heat.
Director Olivier Marchal Actors Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Andre Dussollier
In the underbelly of the Parisian criminal world, the Police are frustrated by a gang committing a series of violent robberies. Leo Vrinks and Denis Klein are two cops seeking promotion, and the imminent departure of the Chief sets the scene for them to compete for the vacant throne. The competition between them becomes increasingly ruthless and blurs the usual lines of morality, until there seems no difference between the police and the criminals they chase. Vrinks, meeting with a source, becomes involved with a murder. Klein seizes the opportunity to up the ante and arranges for the arrest of Vrinks, but when he goes further and viciously involves Vrinks’ wife, Camille, revenge is inevitable.
Heist scenes always thrill me. My preference for film violence leads me to favor the teist that is well executed, but the thieves leave a path a destruction as they leave. My favorite robbery scene has to be the bank and the escape in Michael Mann’s Heat. The villains march up the street using brutal force to provide cover and open an escape route. This film mimics the violent precision better than any other Mann copycat (and there have been many) The heist in this movie is what I will remember it for, even though there were a lot of other good things, as well as pacing issues. I guess they didn’t stray too far from Heat on that either.
To beat a horse past it’s death and into Dothraki stew, Daniel Auteuil is a spitting image of a younger Deniro before he got old and stuck into his Focker role. This time Auteuil is the good guy, Leo Vrinks, nonchalant in dealing with the stress he has in concern to his job while having enough poise to demand respect from his peers. There is absolutely no wonder this guy is a mega star in France. He gets into to grey areas at times, but he always maintains his role as the protagonist, and puts in the caliber of performance necessary for the changes in the tone.
Depardieu does role reversal and plays a vile cop. Every time we see something good happen for Auteuil’s Vrink Depardieu is there waiting for his good fortune. He makes you loath his character because of his jealousy.
Somehow Valeria Golina is just as hot as she was a decade before when she was the leading lady in Hot Shots across from Charlie Sheen. She plays Vrinks wife and burns the screen whenever she comes on it.
With a great set of leads and a spectacular display of ensemble casting the film has faults that really hurt it, and they all mimic the issues of Mann’s Heat. Unlike the former, Precinct 36 remains a manageable 2 hours by focusing more on Vrinks as the lead and Depardieu as a supporting actor. The first half of the film flies by as we are following the violent robbers and the politics dictating the actions of the police in the search of them. A little past the mid way point, the movie changes genres and goes from action police to a full fledged dramatic audition reel. It takes some very dark and gritty turns and spits out an ending that gets bookended with a family scene to make this harsh toned politically corrupt film end on a good note. The only difference in all these tones from Mann’s film is the placement within the film. This one is more frontloaded where I found the other was at its peak in the center.
I must also say if you intend to watch the film, make sure you are paying close attention, as I rewatched the beginning sections to find the staple piece that I forget that plays such an important piece in the ending. If I had known such a serious tone change was coming I would not have regarded the start of film as such a fun brainless action piece.
Olivier Marchal was a cop before he was a director. In fact, he sent himself through acting classes during the day while doing night shifts for the Paris Police, in a special assignment division. He takes the experiences he had with police politics and the outcome of some of the people in charge while he was there and molded them into a “semi biographical” tale.
Overall, Precinct 36 has more positives than negatives. The actions scenes are incredibly well done, as well as the award caliber acting from the entire cast. The shift in tone definitely sets it back more than if it would have continued along the a single path. If you also like Heat, there is absolutely no reason I can think of why you wouldn’t like this one too.
This is what a Blu Ray special edition is supposed to be like. It has a 30 minute behind the scenes featurette that takes us to the various locations from the film while the most memorable scenes were being filmed. It shows how many skilled hands are involved in a large actioner such as this, and the conditions they work in. There are places where they crew talk of going home due to the cold and some of the actors being told they can’t go eat because lighting took too much time. Great stuff for those looking at a film career.
There is a interview session with the Director, who talks about the realism he was able to add from his experience as a cop. He tells a little bit about how this story was based on events that he witnessed during his tenure as a cop. We also get to see him help choose the weapons and the Wardrobe. A couple of trailers finish the special features section.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars