FRANCE 2010  Directed by: Richard Berry Novel: Franz-Olivier Giesbert Written by: Richard Berry, Eric Assous, Alexandre De La Patelliere, Mathieu Delaporte Produced by: Luc Besson, Peree-Ange Le Pogram Cinematography by: Thomas Hardmeier  Editing: Camille Delamarre  Music: Klaus Badelt  Cast: Jean Reno, Tony Zacchia, Gabrielle Wright, Richard Berry, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Marina Fois, Claude Gensac, Fani Kolarova, Moussa Maaskri

Jean Reno plays retired French mobster Charlie Mattei who is assassinated and shot 22 times. He survives, miraculously, and vows to find out who ordered the hit. Very soon the line between friends and foes starts to blur as he gets closer to the truth and the core of Marseille’s underbelly.

We probably should be happy to see Luc Besson finally producing a hard-boiled gangster movie and not another action comedy. And indeed L’IMMORTEL starts promising, reminding us of LEON and Besson’s heyday as a director. After Reno’s ultra-violent assassination however it goes downhill, not dramatically, but slowly and steadily.

The story isn’t really new, and it gets more uninteresting by the minute. It is getting increasingly confused and illogical while being predictable from the beginning. L’IMMORTEL is giving it all away very quickly so that the movie’s only remaining point is when and how Mattei is going to kill the assassins and the mastermind behind.

Of course L’IMMORTEL is a vengeance movie as much as it is a mafia flick, so I am not surprised that the angle shifts from who-dunnit to how’s-he-gonna-kill’em-all. Still, L’IMMORTEL is trying to sell itself to us as serious crime drama, showing some historic snippets of Reno becoming the kingpin and so forth. But L’IMMORTEL never really is more than skin deep when it comes to the characters’ backgrounds, careers or lifestyles, therefore their actions, thoughts and motivations stay in the dark.

Hardly ever do we fully understand what drives these men, or what beef they have with each other, or why things turned sour at some point of their relationship. Never mind. Our interest in the characters drops corresponding to the running time, and very little interest is left once we arrive at the finale.

Even the extreme violence and some edgy sequences wear off after a while – if it wasn’t for Jean Reno and a distinctly European look L’IMMORTEL wasn’t much more than another solid American B-movie. But then that’s not enough to make us forget the lame script, dialogue and acting of the rest of the cast, or the fact that L’IMMORTEL simply lacks IQ.

L’IMMORTEL has a few highlights, but complexity, character development and consistency are not its strong suit. Most importantly however it lacks the street cred and its authenticity of e.g. GOMORRAH. L’IMMORTEL may not be a terrible movie, but it’s not much more than overcooked stew made of the genre’s most frequently used ingredients.



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