Liste Noire [Black List] (1995)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Liste Noire</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Black List</strong>] (1995)

(In French, On Cable TV, January 2019) When it comes to Liste Noire, I definitely have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was one of Québec’s mid-1990s attempts to ape the conventions of American-style judicial thrillers. Rather than endlessly talking around the proverbial dinner table like far too many French-Canadian movies do, Liste Noire quickly gets to the heart of its noir premise: A prostitute engineers her own arrest, and then delivers a secret list of names to a Québec High Court judge, implicating other high-ranking judges. The ensuing portrait of the backroom dealing between judges is definitely cynical, showing them as even more corrupt than the average person. Québec big-screen legend Michel Côté is quite good in a thankless role, playing the new judge with the list who soon has to deal with death threats and attempts on his life. It’s all pretty jazzy material for a thriller, and now-renowned director Jean-Marc Vallée manages his big-screen debut with some intensity. The sharp (but dated) 1990s edge is now strikingly neon and noir, with a suitably jaundiced view and sympathies on the side of prostitutes rather than judges. But then there’s the ending. If you stopped watching the film three-quarter of the way through, you would probably have a nagging feeling about where it was all going … but no proof of the insanity in store in the film’s big twist. Alas, the nagging doubt is soon realized and the film self-destructs in a violent final burst of ludicrousness and bad plotting. Some movies are improved by twist endings while others are weakened by them, and Liste Noire definitely belongs to the second category. Ultimately, it makes the movie difficult to take seriously once all is wrapped up. Too bad, because there’s roughly four fifths of a great suspense thriller in here.

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