Le Dernier Tunnel [The Last Tunnel] (2004)

(In French, In theaters, April 2004) French-Canadian cinema is still at a stage where it’s amazed whenever it manages to deliver competent American-style entertainment. Every so often, though, it slips back into the kind of depressing introspective drama that used to pass for cinematic entertainment around here. And so Le Dernier Tunnel is a mix of both tendencies: After a long set-up describing how a master thief goes back in the crime business after a stint in the hole, the film holds its own when comes the time to build tension and suspense. While the first two acts are both sketchy (in plotting) and self indulgent (in repetitive “character-building”), the last twenty minutes are pure action cinema, complete with a CGI shot of an exploding mailboxes and a bullet-time effect. Whew! But just when you think that this is going to end American-style, the film grinds to a halt, jettisoning whatever good will it had managed to accumulate and going back to old-style defeatism. While there is a place for an ending in which not everyone gets what they want, the choice here is grating: The absence of a twist, the drawn-out finale that amounts to nothing, the lack of satisfaction after a conventional build-up all conspire to negate the film’s momentum. The credits roll, the lights go up, and the audience is cheated by a film that just lost its nerve.

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