(In French, On Cable TV, October 2013) I have fond memories of the original “Omertà” TV series that was broadcast back in 1996: A muscular police thriller set against the backdrop of Montréal’s organized crime, it put Michel Côté on the map, brought Hollywood-like production values to Québec TV and showed that home-grown entertainment could be remarkably enjoyable. Omertà-the-movie obviously banks on name recognition, as it purports to follow Michel Côté’s character more than a decade after the conclusion of the third series. The links between TV series and film aren’t thicker than two common characters, though: much of the rest is original, so that viewers without any knowledge of the series won’t miss much. What follows is a tangled, even opaque, mess of double-agents, organized crime figures, corrupt law-and-order representatives and the occasional victim. It’s not uninteresting (even featuring a daring death midway through) and filmmaker Luc Dionne’s work is generally solid… but the script leads to a big so-what of an inconclusive ending that doesn’t show bravery as much as it elicits frustration. While the film has its moments, it seems to lead nowhere, and mishandle its own strengths. As Québec’s “big movie” of 2012, it offers the usual casting gags and fixtures: Michel Côté and Patrick Huard are omnipresent on the French-Canadian big screen for good reasons, while comedian Stéphane Rousseau is a revelation as a villain (sadly, his characters is repeatedly qualified as a psycho without much on-screen confirmation, and his exit is a big disappointment) while husband/manager-of-Céline-Dion René Angelil as a mob boss is just… funny. Alas, Rachelle Lefebvre is far less interesting than she should have been in her role. While Omertà is a decent piece of filmmaking, it’s not quite the slick crowd-pleaser that it aimed to be. It may be worthwhile to revisit the TV series, though, and I’m still interested in whatever Luc Dionne wants to work on next.
(On DVD, May 2010) For such a small market, Québec cinema has proven uncommonly adept at finding the recipes required to get audiences in theatres. In this case, take a respected actor with a good track record (Michel Côté), pair him off with a hip comic (Louis-José Houde), put them in a situation that combines family comedy with criminal intrigue and watch the results. As is the case with nearly any other Québec comedy hybrid, the film is first played for laughs, and then for criminal thrills. The movie’s entire middle third is spent yakking it up at a remote camp for estranged fathers-and-sons, with mud-wrestling, Gen-X/Boomer generational complaints and occasional reminders that there is a hostage drama going on elsewhere. Only De père en flic‘s first and last minutes are concerned with the cops-versus-criminals premise, which is just as well given how it’s the comedy rather than the thrills that made this film such a success at the French-Canadian box-office. It actually works pretty well: The script may occasionally indulge its stars in going for the cheap laughs, but the generational conflicts have more substance that you’d expect from a light summer comedy, and actually have something to say about today’s Québec. De père en flic may be a far better farce than a criminal thriller, but that’s not much of a problem.