Saturday, December 2, 2017

Crime REALLY does not pay in Frédéric Schoendoerffer's road thriller, FAST CONVOY

The first thing we see on-screen is the Paramount logo, and so we immediately assume that this (at least partially) financed by Paramount-in-France crime thriller is going to reside pretty much in the realm of mainstream movies. As directed and co-written by French filmmaker Frédéric Schoendoerffer and acted very well by a cast who would seem to have some Moroccan/Algerian roots and led by popular French star Benoît Magimel (shown at left, and two photos below), FAST CONVOY (Le convoi) turns out to be that rare crime movie that turns a cliche on its ear, places character above explosion, and subtlety over the obvious. If its pacing is too slow for typical mainstream, that very dawdling produces the kind of depth and richness of character we expect independent cinema to provide. Above all else, the movie is -- remarkable in a crime thriller -- quietly but exquisitely humane.

M. Schoendoerffer, shown at right, has a resume filled with crime films, none of which, save this one, has been seen by TrustMovies. Judging on the basis of Fast Convoy,  I wouldn't mind taking a look at the others, each of which at least offers a stellar cast.

Here, the plot deals with a group of lower-echelon criminals, spread amongst four automobiles, transporting a shipment of illegal drugs along a highway in southern Spain. We soon learn that to the original haul has been added another shipment of cocaine, the prison-time penalty for which, if our boys are caught, is much longer than is that of their expected shipment. Questions are asked, tempers flare, mistakes are made, and soon one of the fellows is dead, another wounded, and a hostage kidnapped who must then become the driver of one of the cars.

Schoendoerffer and his oft-time co-writer Yann Brion have provided near-constant dialog between the guys in the cars that slowly reveals character while offering clues to what is to come. One of these clues eventually comes home to roost in a betrayal that seems all the more sad and awful because it is, on one level, so very necessary.

That kidnapped driver, a young woman about whom we learn very little (played by Rheem Kherici, above), is still brought to life quite well. The relationship that develops between her and Magimel's character -- more kindly than romantic --  takes a number of nice turns, surprising and finally generous on both sides.

Each of the young criminals is given his due, too, from the worry-wart family-man, Majid (Foëd Amara, above) to the close-to-the-vest Imad (Tewfik Jallab, below, left) who, along with Magimel, appears to be "in charge" of this operation.

Of all these guys, perhaps the most touching is Yacine (Amir El Kacem, above, right), who may have a "needle dick," as his car-mate jokes, but also possesses a poetic, romantic sensibility which is captured quite beautifully in his final few moments.

Yes, these are all criminals, and we do see them as such, but thanks to the filmmaker's sensibility, they are never less than human, and we come to care about them at the finale more than you could possibly have imagined at the film's beginning.

Part of the surprise and the skill of Fast Convoy lies in how nicely "un-slick" the movie is. This is no Fast & Furious franchise imitation. Instead, as the film progresses, it becomes clear how "amateur" these guys actually are. Oh, they've done this sort of drug trafficking before, but they are mostly untutored in everything from dealing with the police to handling bullet wounds or heavy-duty stress.

All this is captured best in the film's climatic shoot-out, in which one thing after another seems to happen as much by accident as on purpose. There's a kind of "realism" here than most action films don't even attempt, much less succeed at.

Schoendoerffer's is one of those rare modern movies in which crime not only does not pay, but is shown to sadly snuff out the lives of young men who might have made something more of their time here on earth.

Distributed digitally in the U.S. via Under the Milky Way, in French with English subtitles and running 102 minutes, Fast Convoy opens on VOD throughout the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday, December 5, on all major platforms including iTunes, Sony, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft, Vudu, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Vimeo, and various other cable operators. 

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