36 Blu-ray review

The film's that's been billed as the French Heat arrives in high definition. Luke reviews the Blu-ray of 36...

It’s easy to see why 36 has been billed as the French Heat. Olivier Marchal’s Parisian crime saga features its two most celebrated actors (Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu) going head to head within a storyline of cops and robbers. That it manages to impress and delight so much despite this lofty benchmark is a sign. not only of its quality, but also that it’s clever enough to subvert any preconceptions you may have going into it.

What starts as a seemingly routine thriller – Auteuil’s Organised Crime Officer and Depardieu’s rival Bureau Detective both determined to solve a series of armed robberies perpetrated by a ruthless gang – soon morphs into something a little bit more interesting. 36‘sreal story is not good guy cops chasing bad guy robbers, but morally dubious cops trading blows with one another.

Auteuil’s Léo Vrinks is the cop driven to punish criminals by whatever means necessary. Depardieu’s Denis Klein, the ruthlessly ambitious one, more concerned with his career than doing the right thing. The film deals in these big stereotypes, but director Marchal makes it work in spite of this. A former cop, he doesn’t trade in big elaborate set pieces, but punchy, sudden explosions of violence. 

One scene starts routinely with Auteuil and his fellow officers arresting a suspect in his apartment but ends in jaw-dropping fashion a few storeys below. It’s over just as soon as it’s begun, but it’s brutally effective.

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It’s what makes 36 so good. Expectations are defied at every turn. Opening with Auteuil crying (in a way few American movie stars would dare (this is not Robert De Niro-Raging Bull territory where it’s accompanied by a masculinating bout of fist pounding), before moving onto a scene introducing our ‘heroes’ as anything but, it doesn’t try for the epic sweep of Heat

In fact, it’s something smaller, albeit still packing a huge amount in. Too much, in fact, and it’s here that the film falls a little short. Covering so much within two hours, it doesn’t give itself time to flesh out its characters in the way Michael Mann does so well. There’s too much tell and not enough show, Marchal having to work a fair bit of exposition in to fill the gaps.

Yet, with Auteuil and Depardieu, you only need a little bit of show. They’re both terrific, able to hold the attention with the simplest of shrugs. Depardieu, often prone to outbursts or Al Pacino-style moments of shouting, internalises that bluster, making his Klein a man you feel is capable of anything. Auteuil goes the other way, a seemingly sedate man able to handle the most violent of situations.

Valeria Golino turns up briefly as Vrinks’ wife, steaming things up a bit with a quick shower scene that’s done in that tasteful European way (i.e. it feels more like a character reveal than an actress reveal). Yet, try as she might, she still can’t shake off her Ramada from the Hotshots films (“Look, if I were joking I would have said, ‘What do you do with an elephant with three balls? You walk him and pitch to the rhino.'”).  Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, 36 is a film to be savoured. And one best seen before the inevitable American remake arrives.

The Disc

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There are a smattering of extras on offer. A nine minute interview with Marchal is revealing (the film is mostly based on real events he heard about during his time as an officer) and a good sign of how French he is. Halfway through he grabs a cup of coffee to keep going.

The near half-hour ‘Making of 36‘ gives a look behind the scenes. And that’s all it is. There’s no interview material in there (save for a minute of Marchal at the end) or commentary over the action, just footage of cast and crew shooting from day one to la fin. It’s interesting, but could do with some variation.

There are two other featurettes, one on costumes and hair styles (is Valeria’s hair too short? She doesn’t seem that happy with it), the other on the many weapons used (basically, a room full of men admiring and playing with guns). 

A few trailers round out a nice, if far from exhilarating, set of bonus features.

The Film:

4 stars
The Disc:

36 is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.

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4 out of 5