Polisse (2011)


(director/writer: Maiwenn; screenwriter: Emmanuelle Bercot; cinematographer: Pierre Aïm; editors: Laure Gardette/Yann Dedet; music: Stephen Warbeck; cast: Karin Viard (Nadine), Joeystarr (Fred), Marina Foïs (Iris), Nicolas Duvauchelle (Mathieu), Maïwenn (Melissa), Karole Rocher (Chrys), Emmanuelle Bercot (Sue Ellen), Frédéric Pierrot (Balloo), Arnaud Henriet (Bamako), Naidra Ayadi (Nora), Jérémie Elkaïm (Gabriel); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Attal; IFC Films; 2011-France-in French and Arabic with English subtitles)

“It gets across its message on the plight of the innocent children.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Directed by the 35-year-old French actress and filmmaker Maiwenn (“The Actress’ Ball“/”Pardonnez-moi “), who co-wrote it with Emmanuelle Bercot. The social conscience emotional crime story follows the police Child Protection Unit in northern Paris. It was inspired by actual scary cases of child abuse, pedophilia, child prostitution, child homelessness and neglect that are fictionalized. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011. The uneven, loosely sketched and messy rambling drama, looking more like a TV series than a movie, nevertheless establishes a docudrama look and never relinquishes its raw energy of getting to the brutality of the crimes despite going off on too many soap opera subplots about romances among the police, their testy relationships at home and the poisonous political chatter among the stressed-out police during their lunch breaks. The film succeeds because it gets across its message on the plight of the innocent children, as Maiwenn, despite her lapses in film-making judgment, makes us feel the pain of the abused and in the end that’s what registers the most.

Maiwenn plays a timid photographer named Melissa assigned by the Interior Ministry to document the activities of the police group, who gets romantically involved with unit member Fred (Joeystarr, French rapper) and thereby eventually loosens-up.

The crime squad is led by the politically cautious Balloo (Frédéric Pierrot), too fearful to take a stance against his bosses and stick-up for his squad. Under him is Fred, who is estranged from his daughter and who takes every case as if it were a matter of life and death, which causes conflicts with his superior. Other key members are the stressed-outNadine (Karin Viard), going through a divorce; her troubled partner Iris (Marina Foïs); and the lustful Mathieu (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who has the hots for his married partner Chrys (Karole Rocher).

Its opening scene, showing the first of many police interviews with their subjects, it has a little girl tell officer Chrys that her father sometimes “scratches her butt,” which indicates the difficulties for the police in distinguishing truth from the imagination of a child in sex abuse cases–especially when kids and parents offer conflicting statements.

The pic focuseson the strain of the stress-full police job. A good example of that is in a later scene, where there’s a loud shouting match in the office between partners Nadine and Iris. Despite all the weepie incidents uncovered, there is a comical moment when Fred interrogates a teenage girl who gave a blow job to get back a stolen cell phone.

The film is at its best when it reveals what happens behind the closed doors, as thepic’s ethnically diverse officers go from friendly chatter among colleagues to hateful rants about immigrant criminals to investigating heart-wrenching cases of social wrongs.

The publicity department informs us the title is derived from Maiwenn’s own son’s misspelling of the word.