Dir. Jérôme Le Gris, France, 2012, 91 mins, in French with English subtitles
Review by Ruth Sullivan
First time writer/director Jérôme Le Gris references Hitchcock as his major influence on his dark hit woman thriller Requiem for Killer and in many respects the hallmarks are there – a mysterious blonde, a twisty plot, classy settings and a beautiful soundtrack. However, the film falls far from the mark, hobbled by a clunking and silly script and complete lack of tension or authenticity as the story plays out. It feels very much like the work of someone who’s watched a lot of thrillers and constructed a story out of un-nuanced clichés and heavy handed dialogue.
The plot revolves around mysterious expert hit woman Lucrèce who, as well as being a deadly assassin, is also a mother and amateur opera singer. Lucrèce agrees to do one last hit in exchange for a quiet retirement with her daughter. Unsurprisingly this involves Lucrèce’s operatic skills as she is contracted to ‘zap’ a wealthy Scottish Opera Singer who’s land and investments stand in the way of a potential oil pipeline. Unbeknownst to Lucrèce, French counter-intelligence dispatch reluctant, newly out of retirement agent Rico, who is also conveniently a classical guitarist, to take down the renowned assassin. The action comes to a head in the Swiss chalet setting of an opera festival performance of Handle’s messiah, with Lucrèce and her mark performing and Rico strumming away in the orchestra.
If the premise sounds convoluted and silly, it only gets worse as the film progresses. This is a world populated by crude stereotypes: the femme fatale, the evil priest, the rough agent with a heart of gold and so it goes on. There are no surprises in the plot as it trudges forwards with its blatant twists, glaringly obvious conclusion and truly awful cheesy dialogue. Whether it’s a case of lost in translation, one does not know, but the dialogue in the subtitles is mostly a hollow parroting of US thrillers with no sense of authentic knowledge or understanding of the espionage world. It makes the story very silly and cartoonish rather than tense and threatening as the director intended.
The performances are okay given the quality of what the actors have to work with and if nothing else Mélanie Laurent is visually captivating. She exudes a quiet confidence on screen and can convey a lot whilst saying very little. She was remarkable and luminous in Inglourious Basterds and it’s apparent again here that with the right material and the right role she could really shine. The rest of the cast struggles with limiting, stereotypical characters and truly awful dialogue.
Sadly, probably the best part of the film is the performance of Handel’s Messiah. At best this is a comedic, silly film and at worst is a slightly embarrassing pastiche piece.