(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.
(In theaters, July 2010) The problem with Eclipse is that while it’s just good enough to avoid much of its predecessors’ most unintentionally hilarious moments, it’s not good enough to make it a compelling film experience if you’re not already part of Twilight’s target audiences. Much of it stems from the thinness of its plotting, especially when compared to the languid pacing of its execution: By the fifteenth minute of the film, we know that vampires are coming to attack and that poor confused Bella isn’t any more decisive than before. And that’s where things remain stuck for the next hour, the script seemingly happy to remind us of both plotlines until it’s time to wrap it up. To director David Slade’s credit, the short fights between teen vampires and fluffy werewolves actually feel interesting. Alas, there’s isn’t much else to enjoy elsewhere in Eclipse: even the hilariously awful dialogue of the first two films seems a bit better-behaved here. There is still, fortunately, a bit of romantic universality in seeing Bella struggle between two pretenders who really want to kill each other. The acting isn’t much better, though, and the casting may be a bit worse: It’s not just for French-Canadian pride that I regret Rachelle Lefevre’s replacement by Bryce Dallas Howard as Victoria (Go, Team Victoria!): Howard doesn’t quite have the feral intensity required for the role and a number of the latter scenes feel like she’s meowing a lioness part. Ah well. In terms of genre-bending, Eclipse continues the series’ tradition of being romance under dark fantasy masks: Forget this film’s value to the horror crowd since there’s nothing original to see here in genre terms, even though a scene featuring a snowstorm, a freezing human, a frigid vampire and a warm werewolf is good for a cute chuckle. (It’s one of the only chuckles in a film that’s as dour as the rest of its series so far.) But, at the risk of repeating myself, I’m so far away from Twilight’s audience that the only thing left to do is admit that this film isn’t for me. That it doesn’t manage to go beyond its own fans isn’t much of a problem as far as box-office receipts are concerned… but those films will age quickly once its audience grows just a bit older. No film immortality in store, here.