(On Cable TV, February 2018) I had reasonably high hopes for this sequel to the 2009 bilingual thriller Bon Cop Bad Cop. The original was a clever look at Canada’s two linguistic communities, straddling language and culture in the service of a comic thriller. This sequel manages to get both Patrick Huard and Colm Feore to reprise their roles (no mean feat, given both actors’ busy schedules) but seems to forget much of what made the original work so well. The theme of the original film, so cleanly focused on French/English relationships, was clear and compelling—the sequel, alas, muddles along with a half-hearted look south of the border. Taking the plot to the United States is a logical step forward, but some of the America-bashing does get cheap and tiresome. The character work is fine in theory, except that we don’t particularly care about many of the secondary characters, and the film has the bad idea of giving a terminal illness to one of its protagonists, leading to one good death-wish scene but a whole lot of cumbersome emotional baggage to the film’s conclusion (not to mention a possible third film). Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 also falls prey to the easy lure of police brutality—it’s hard to cheer for nominally sympathetic and comic protagonists when they start manhandling and torturing suspects. Too long for its own good, Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 ends up feeling like a chore rather than a fun film … and given that the point of it is a fun film, the disappointment is palpable. I still like much of the film—Huard and Feore are likable, Mariana Mazza makes a remarkable (but almost overdone) appearance as a hyperactive computer specialist and some of the stunts are spectacular enough. But there is a lot of untapped or misplaced potential in the film’s execution as it loses its way, sabotages some of its own goodwill and ends up on a less than fully satisfying note.
(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, July 2011) I should begin by saying that I’m less impartial toward this film than most, having put together a web site for director Daniel Roby’s first feature film a few years ago. But even then, it’s hard not to be impressed by the scope of Funkytown, which looks at the late-seventies disco scene in Montréal through a large ensemble cast. The first few minutes are electrifying, as the characters are introduced within a fluid sequence. Patrick Huard headlines the film as an influential media personality whose decline forms the backbone of the film’s dramatic arc. Period music is used effectively, and the period is rendered in its glorious brown-and-gold glory. Not stopping at disco, Funkytown also dares to tackle the socio-political turmoil of the era (which would see the center of Canadian power shift from Montréal to Toronto as separatism led to an exodus of well-off decision-makers from one city to the other) and the rise of AIDS within the gay community. Loosely inspired by real events (look up the story of Alain Montpetit and Douglas Leopold for reference), Funkytown has enough plot to stuff an entire TV show season as seven or eight main characters jostle for attention. Screenwriter Steve Galluccio is able to keep everything intelligible, but the story cries out for a novel or a longer-form format, especially toward the end as subplots seem to be cut short. There’s still a decent amount of subtlety and depth to the end result, and the film’s soundtrack alone is worth a look. (Never mind the slight anachronisms, though.) The way both English and French dialogues are used, often in the same conversation, feels authentically Montréal-style. As one of the bigger-budgeted films in Quebec history, Funkytown has a decent dramatic heft and feels like a reasonably faithful look at the era. It’s a joy to watch even despite its downbeat dramatic trajectory, and will probably rank as a definitive piece for the era.