Gallipoli.Starring Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu. Directed by Olivier Marchal.
Running Time: 110 mins.
Rated: Rated MA 15+.
36 Quai des Orfevres refers to the address of the criminal investigation section of the French National Police. Within these headquarters there are two divisions: the BRI (search and action) and ACU (anti-crime). Leo Vrinks (Auteuil) heads up the BRI. Denis Klein (Depardieu) heads up the ACU. Once friends, now, there is no love loss between these men. Both are competing to become France's Police Commissioner.
An organised crime gang has been successfully targeting the security vans of major banks. The BRI and ACU have to track down the gang and administer justice. Both units operate within what can be called a vigilante-style code. Violence, torture, and intimidation are part of their procedures.
Vrinks gets a break in the case but, in turn, becomes the focus of a police internal affairs investigation. Klein, a corrupt and immoral man, delights in Vrink's fall from grace. But Vrinks has many years to plot his revenge.
36 Quai des Orfevres lurches from looking stylish to being cliché-ridden. Some of the photography is excellent, and the editing is superb, but there are so many clichés indeed, it is almost comedic.
The greatest weakness in this film, apart from the shocking violence, is the stereotypical presentation of crime fighters. In 36 Quai des Orfevres an honest cop is gunned down three days before retirement. Bullets spray everywhere, and land everywhere, except on the heroes. Bullets even riddle along the side of the baddies' cars, but never puncture a tyre. In their investigations in this film it is, yet again, necessary for the police to visit a strip club at least twice, and the cop's best friends are pimps and women in prostitution. I doubt there is an unused cops and robbers cliché in this film.
What's worrying about this is that director Olivier Marchal is a retired policeman and claims the story is based on fact.
If the banality of the concept or the graphic violence does not turn you off this film, the constant chain smoking or the wall-to-wall music will.
It might be better to keep walking past 36 Quai des Orfevres.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.