Ladj Ly’s debut feature is a police drama set in a tough Paris suburb that loses subtlety and heft as it erupts into violence
This movie from first-time feature director Ladj Ly has one of the most striking and even glorious pre-credit sequences I can remember. It shows the cheering, screaming crowds on the streets of Paris last summer, when France had just beaten Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup. This is a seething mass of humanity with tricolours waving everywhere, boiling with joy. Finally, the director flashes up the title over the people, ecstatic in their triumph: Les Misérables.
It’s an irresistible irony and it kicks the film off with a great exhilarating jolt of humour, cynicism, energy and savvy. But what begins as a fascinatingly tough cop procedural gets less interesting when the violence begins, and it becomes a solemnly ponderous issue movie on those familiar subjects of police brutality and community divisions. The stakes are ostentatiously raised, the riot makes it looks like a war movie and it ends unconvincingly. Rather as with Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan from 2015, it’s a movie that builds to a confrontation that isn’t satisfying dramatically (although Dheepan was the Cannes Palme D’Or winner).