The Lost Son (1999)


(director/writer: Chris Menges; screenwriters: Eric Leclere/Margaret Leclere/Mark Mills; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editors: Pamela Power/Luc Barnier; music: Goran Bregovic; cast: Daniel Auteuil (Xavier Lombard), Nastassja Kinski (Deborah Spitz), Bruce Greenwood (Friedman), Katrin Cartlidge (Emily), Ciaran Hinds (Carlos), Marianne Denicourt (Nathalie), Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Spitz), Cyril Shaps (Mr. Spitz), James Harris (Hopper), Hemal Pandya (Shiva), Cal Macaninch (Peter); Runtime: 102; Le Studio Canal Plus; 1999-UK/Fr.)
“A hardboiled private eye genre film that comes with the troubling taboo subject matter of kiddie porn.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A hardboiled private eye genre film that comes with the troubling taboo subject matter of kiddie porn. It is directed with strength and conviction by the talented Britisher Chris Menges (A World Apart/Second Best), who does not flinch in covering all the slime. But the film goes Hollywood in its conventional violent ending, as it uses the typical gumshoe action response to a very real societal problem. This intelligent thriller, however, is not ruined by that and should be applauded for its sound treatment of the pedophile theme it raises and its refusal to soft-pedal it.

The famous French actor with the perpetual sad look on his kisser, Daniel Auteuil, is in his first English-language role (he has a lot of trouble with the language, which does hinder his performance). He plays an ex-Paris cop Xavier Lombard, who left under cloudy circumstances after a murder investigation over a drug dealer. Trying to get by and forget his troubles in Paris he’s now living alone in a modest London Soho flat with his goldfish and in his spare time plays in an amateur soccer league. Xavier works as a private eye, handling mostly adultery cases.

Xavier’s surprised to find that his former Parisian colleague, Carlos (Hinds), is living in London the last three years and is now working for his rich manufacturer father in-law from Hampstead. Carlos has talked the family into hiring him to find their wayward son, Leon, a heroin addict and a dilettante photographer who has been missing ever since he borrowed a thousand pounds about a month ago from his sister.

Mr. and Mrs. Spitz (Cyril Shaps & Billie Whitlaw) give him a generous retainer and implore him to find their son while Deborah (Kinski), Carlos’s wife, takes a hostile stance against both her brother and the shamus. She says Leon probably used the money for drugs.

Checking out Leon’s flat the private eye obtains the address of Emily (Cartlidge), Leon’s girlfriend. When he visits her, he finds a Third World child who is so traumatized he can’t speak. The victimized child was brought to stay with Emily by Leon. The kid only mentions that the Austrian did this to him. Emily also gives him a kiddie porno videotape that Leon gave her, before he disappeared.

Lombard works hard to convince his loyal hooker friend Nathalie (Denicourt), someone he knew from Paris, to use her pimp contacts to get him a child sex date from the Austrian. From thereon, it’s Lombard doing a Clint Eastwood thing against the sleazy operators of this international kidnapping-porn ring. He will track them down in the hotel they use to force these kids into having sex with paying customers, and in one shot worth more than a thousand words–a kid victim pisses on the corpse of one of his abusers. Lombard’s implausible one man crusade will take him as faraway as Mexico, as this shady private eye stubbornly feels he must do the right thing and eradicate this scum of the earth child sex syndicate. The surprise comes at the end, as to who is heading the porn ring. Though it’s not much of a surprise, as the ending is a familiar one for this genre.