In Brief: A decent but predictably unpredictable heist movie
Heist flicks are a hit or miss proposition. Most miss. A lot of them look alike. They’re fat on big stars and big budgets but thin on plot. A huge percentage of them use flashbacks, montages and need the suspension of disbelief to buy.
Minus the big stars, and the high-class montages, The Fall of the American Empire isn’t much different in suspension of disbelief aspect. That said, this also isn’t your typical heist movie and while it is packed with flaws, writer/director Denys Arnand’s flick isn’t bad and — in spots — is a lot of fun.
Most of you won’t know who Arnand is but he’s fairly famous in Canadian art house circles. His film is set in Toronto, Canada and done in French. Unless you speak the language, you have the pleasure of reading subtitles.
Alexandre Landry’s Pierre Paul Daoust has a doctorate in philosophy. He’s a socialist and anti-capitalist. Daoust is also a delivery truck driver who spends a lot of time helping the homeless.
One day when delivering a package to a video store, it gets robbed. The store is a front for mob money. In the ensuing gunfight, a bad guy and the robbers — carrying two huge bags of money — are shot. One is killed. The other escapes.
Daoust can’t resist grabbing the cash.
Tossing his distaste for capitalism, and fear of getting on the wrong side of the mob out the window, Daoust’s dilemma from that point is finding ways to launder the money. To accomplish that he partners with a former biker gang leader — who just happens to be an expert on what to do with taxes and cash — and a high-end prostitute.
Two things to love about Arcand’s movie. The first is the most excellent performances from a very good cast that includes Canadian TV personality Maripier Morin. This is part comedy and part drama, and when tongue-in-cheek comedy is needed, all involved do it perfectly.
Second is Arcand’s sense of humor and his explanation of the ills associated with capitalism. He uses Daoust’s non-stop philosophical punches at capitalism and lessons from other characters to paint a picture of a system gone wrong. As another counterpoint, Arcand points to high homelessness and how corporate and individual greed feeds and leads to their plight.
It’s a little simplistic but his movie is part satire.
Where it falters is Arcand’s inability to decide exactly what his movie is going to be. Is it comedy or drama? The comedy parts work and are terrific. The drama not so much. It needs to be a bit darker. The climax is also missing the kind of tension this brand of movie needs. Another flaw is an ending that is too much like a television series where the heroes end one episode and prepare to move to the next.
The last puzzle? While there are digs galore at the flaws in the capitalistic system of finance, and a loose tie to Arcand’s 1986 film, The Decline of the American Empire, what in the heck does any of this have to do with the fall of the American empire?
Director: Denys Arcand
Stars: Alexandre Landry, Maripier Morin, Remy Girard, Louis Morisette, Maxim Roy, Pierre Curzi, Vincent Leclerec
Entertaining, sometimes deep. It’s a different kind of heist film but still fits the genre. Good enough to recommend. Not the Friday Flicks finest but do give it a 3 1/2 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.