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COUPERET, LE (aka: THE AX)(director/writer: Costa-Gavras; screenwriters: Jean-Claude Grumberg/based on the novel by Donald E. Westlake; cinematographer: Patrick Blossier; editor: Yannick Kergoat; music: Armand Amar; cast: Jose Garcia (Bruno Davert), Karin Viard (Marlene Davert), Geordy Monfils (Maxime Davert), Christa Theret (Betty Davert), Thierry Hancisse (Inspector Kessler), Dieudonne Kabongo Bashila (Quinlan, marriage counselor), Olivier Gourmet (Raymond Machefer), Yvon Back (Etienne Barnet), Ulrich Takur (Gerard Hutchinson), Olga Grumberg (Iris Thompson); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jean-Pierre/Luc Dardenne/Jose Maria Morales/Michele Ray-Gavras; Studio Canal; 2005-France/Belgium/Spain-in French with English subtitles)
“It’s a film better suited for the talents of the Coen Brothers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A black comedy adapted from a Donald Westlake novel. It’s about the insanity of the modern day corporate world that is caught up in downsizing, outsourcing, and restructuring with an eye out for the bottom line and not caring about the ill-effects it has on the workers and society. It’s directed by the leftist leaning Costa-Gavras (“Z”/”Hanna K.”/ “The Confession”), of Greek-French roots, who has fun setting up this far-fetched crime tale but the cartoonish assassinations seemed more gross than funny as the political filmmaker seems to have no particular flair for the thriller. It’s a film better suited for the talents of the Coen Brothers. The only thing Gavras got right was his political take.

The 41-year-old suburban everyman Bruno Davert (José Garcia), with a hang-dog expression, married to the long-suffering supportive Marlene (Karin Viard) and with two teenager children (Christa Theret & Geordy Monfils), is a paper engineer with Kamer Paper who was laid off, due to restructuring and a merger, after 15 years on the job he was good at and loved. The shame’s that he was let go at a time he was most productive. He was given compensation for two years and is now in a panic because the two years are nearly up and he can’t land another well-paying job. In utter frustration, feeling his marriage is strained, his entire life is coming apart and that he feels desperately anti-social, he comes up with the balmy idea of eliminating his competition–he uses an old German Luger to knock of those candidates likely to be hired before him at an interview for the Arcadia paper-mill company. He takes out a bogus ad and narrows down his competition to five men also looking to be paper engineers who he observes through their resumés sent to him have the same education and work experience.

We are put into Bruno’s shoes and readily understand how he got screwed by the bottom-line ways of the capitalist system, but when he goes on the killing spree he turns into such a selfish and small-minded character who becomes nothing more than a psycho who will kill for his job that we not only lose sympathy for him and don’t find him funny, but any points he makes about the injustice of the corporate world, the real killer of humanity, go by the wayside and seem merely as academic arguments that can’t be taken seriously. If the film was only goofier and struck more of a balance between tragedy and comedy, then it would have been more engaging and the outlandish story would have worked as counter-point to the outlandish modern day horror story that the corporate world has foisted on the western world.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”