Yamakasi – Les samouraïs des temps modernes (2001)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Yamakasi – Les samouraïs des temps modernes</strong> (2001)

(In French, On TV, September 2003) Luc Besson has turned in a one-man co-producing machine these days, and like with most people who overreach, the quality of his films has spiralled downward. Yamakasi is one of the lesser work attached to his name, a satisfying crime story starring disenfranchised inhabitants of the French suburbs but not much more than that. The problem is that for all of its “The Modern Samurais” tagline, Yamakasi stars petty thieves, and there’s not much that’s noble in stealing rich people to pay for a medical procedure. (C’mon: it’s really cheap emotional manipulation!) In many ways, it’s a thinly-veiled “extreme sports” film with a thin plot covering action scenes, in this case “urban climbing” where people simply grab the nearest building and go to the top. Unfortunately, it’s curiously tepid when comes the moment to show some action: one sequence involving hopping thieves and attacks dogs in a two-floor lobby sticks in mind, but the rest isn’t all that memorable. Once again, the Besson-penned script features dumb dialogue and knee-jerk populist rich-bashing (including the requisite digs at politicians, always a popular target in France) which gets to be tiresome when there isn’t much substance elsewhere in the plot. There’s a certain narrative energy, mind you, and a somewhat satisfying conclusion. I also quite liked the ethnic diversity of the cast, especially when it mean we get to look at Tunisian-Egyptian hottie Amel Djemel. But none of this makes Yamakasi worth a bother, so you might as well just wait until it plays on TV one weekend and just avoid changing the channel.

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