OH MERCY! (ROUBAIX, UNE LUMIERE)
(director/writer: Arnaud Desplechin; screenwriters: Léa Mysius, adapted from the TV documentary “Roubaix, commissariat central” by Mosco Boucault; cinematographer: Irina Lubtchansky; editor: Laurence Briaud; music: Grégoire Hetzel; cast: Lea Seydoux (Claude), Sara Forestier (Marie), Roschdy Zem (Yakoub Daoud), Antoine Reinartz (Louis Cotterel), Madison Copin (Agathe), Maïssa Taleb (Sophie Duhamel), Chloé Simoneau (Judith), Betty Catroux (De Kayser), Jérémy Brunet (Aubin), Stéphane Duquenoy (Benoît), Philippe Duquesne (Dos Santos), Anthony Salamone (Kovalki), Ilyes Bensalem (Farid), Abdellatif Sedegui (Soufia’s father) Sylvie Moreaux (Soufia’s mother), Diya Chalaoui (Fatia Belkacem), Bouzid Bouhdida (Soufia’s uncle); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Pascal Caucheteux, Grégoire Sorlat; Wild Bunch/Why Not Productions; 2019-France-in French with English subtitles)
“An atmospheric, smug, and contrived minor police procedural film from France.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An atmospheric, smug, and contrived minor police procedural film from France. The crime drama by writer-director Arnaud Desplechin (“Ismael Ghosts“/”My Golden Days”) was inspired by the 2008 TV documentary Roubaix, commissariat central,
directed by Mosco Boucault. It’s a fictionalized adaptation of that real-life murder documentary. The co-writer is regular collaborator Léa Mysius. The English version title of Oh Mercy! was inspired by the Bob Dylan album of the same name (which is a lousy title for this film).
Incidentally, Roubaix happens to be the director’s hometown.
The violent murder of an elderly woman takes place on a Christmas night in northern France, in the crime-ridden poor town of Roubaix, on the Belgian border. Investigating the murder is the wily veteran police chief Daoud (Roschdy Zem) and the inexperienced and awkward Louis (Antoine Reinartz), just out of the police academy. The chief has an Algerian family background and relates well with the town’s Franco-Algerian community. Because of his understanding of the community and his good will to them, Daoud is viewed as a good cop. The gist of the film involves two unreliable female witnesses about another crime, a nearby arson. The witnesses are an unmarried couple who live together, Claude (Léa Seydoux) and Marie (Sara Forestier). Because Claude behaves strangely over the arson investigation, the cops bring the couple down to the station. While being questioned on the arson, other cases develop including the disappearance of teenager Sophie Duhamel (Maïssa Taleb), the rape of 15-year-old Agathe (Madison Copin) and then the murder of the woman.
The police are not happy with the couple’s lack of co-operation and decide to interrogate the couple separately about the murder of their neighbor. Under the harsh investigation, where the good cop/bad cop game is played to the hilt, Claude cracks and accuses Marie of the crime. Filled with repetitive interrogations, unnecessary prison-cell visits to the suspects and tiresome reconstruction attempts at the crime scene, the film appears too much like a routine TV show to impact as a movie with something to say about how police act that is fresh and relevant. The director humanizes the witness-suspects after making them look like turds and in the end presents the police precinct in a good light when they establish the two women as the real killers.
Desplechin says he followed the template of Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man. But that was a great film that caught the bugs in the jury system, while this one is a mediocre one that struck me as superficial and dull — handing out a foul smelling bouquet to the police.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/