Judge Erin Boland reviews a Gérard Depardieu crime comedy. Just let the name roll off your tongue...Gérard Depardieu. Feels like butter.
"You slept with her?"
While Crime Spree has been written off as a B-movie in America, this crime comedy is the flick the disappointed fans of A Fish Called Wanda wanted to see in Fierce Creatures. Written and directed by Brad Mirman (writer of the gems Highlander III, Body of Evidence, and Knight Moves), Crime Spree is surprisingly good.
Facts of the Case
Three bumbling French thieves with a history of botching jobs (badly) are given one last chance to make good with their boss. This time: a high stakes jewel heist in Chicago. The gang's leader, Daniel Foray (Gérard Depardieu, The Man in the Iron Mask), Marcel, Zero (a gunman who refers to himself in the third person), and Sami (a kid who "knows" Chicago), Raymond, and Julien set off for the states immediately. Once in America, things immediately start going from bad to worse: Raymond steals a pimped-out low-rider from the leader of the local Latino gang, then their contact gives them the wrong address for their mark. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the thieves accidentally break into a house that just happens to be the home of the Chicago mafia under-boss, Frankie Zammeti (Harvey Keitel, Pulp Fiction, Red Dragon). Instead of stealing gems, they steal Zammeti's plans to whack his boss. To add more fuel to the fire, the entire break-in happens in front of a rogue FBI agent who is staking out Zammeti's house from across the street. With a growing list of people who would love to see the crooks dead, a circus ensues as the wise-guy Frenchies "wise" up and try to find a way out of their plight.
For first-time director Brad Mirman, Crime Spree is not a bad show for his efforts. The flick was well cast; however, other than Keitel and Depardieu, most of the actors were either foreign or rather obscure. (Though the two French badasses were played by French rockers Johnny Hallyday and Renuad.) Though the flick was a comedy, I wouldn't consider any of the cast members an outstanding comic actor. Depardieu has been in a few American titles that have been funny, though nothing that rocked the silver screens enough to gain a long-term following. But despite the casting, Crime Spree works. The comic element in the flick hinges on either rather preposterous situations that the thieves find themselves trapped in, or cultural clashes between the Frenchies and the Chi-Town natives (which could have been played-up a little more). Oh, and Mirman does throw some slapstick in for the hell of it.
The line-up for the film is pretty complete, with Hallyday and Renuad as some good badasses (Marcel and Zero), and Stéphane Freiss (Julien) as the film's token pretty-boy. Albert Dray (Raymond Gayet) plays the crew's pop-psychology-quoting transportation "expert," an excellent comic-relief companion to Depardieu's stick-up-the-you-know-where Foray. Though Gayet may be the tagged "comic-relief," owning a fair deal of the chuckles throughout the film, each one of the characters has a scene to shine.
Taking some very obvious influences from Quentin Tarantino, Mirman has composed a film that is rather visually engrossing. While not entirely original, some of the action sequence screen-shots could only be described as "cool." Despite the visual and compositional influences from Tarantino, Mirman does take a rather un-American approach to portraying violence in his film. When graphic gunshot wounds on the silver screen seem to be just as American as apple pie and even anticipated in many films, Mirman takes a minimalists approach: he shows us just what we need to see to get his point across. And with a nice bit of acting, the point is taken.
Though the film takes place in Chicago, any Chi-Town native will be disappointed. Filmed mainly in Toronto, the film contains some excellent little neighborhood shots, but nothing that concretely places the flick in the Windy City. Though the locations were chosen on an obviously small budget, Mirman's compositional skill uses the ever-present drabness to give the film character. In addition to looking pretty cool, Crime Spree sounds decent. There isn't much of a soundtrack to the flick, but the jazzy "Danke Schoen" at just the right times more then makes up for the rest of the film's unremarkable track. The 5.1 is a nice sound mix, though it isn't really necessary for most of the film.
The commentary track, one of the least interesting I have listened to, centers mainly on Brad Mirman and producer Gary Howsam talking about the technical details of filming. They relate some anecdotes from filming, but more topical, they talk about the mistakes in the movie. (Many were due to a small budget, but it's nice to hear some honest commentary from people pushing their film.) The commentary does mention some cut scenes and alludes to a deleted scenes section, which was, disappointingly enough, notably absent from the screener.
While Crime Spree itself is great, as a DVD it's not necessarily worth the list price of $24.99 (unless, of course, you plan on watching it several times), but it does make for an entertaining rental.
All parties are free to go…Paramount however, will be sleeping with the fishes for forgetting aforementioned deleted scenes in their DVDs. Danke shoen, darling, danke shoen.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director/Writer Brad Mirman and Producer Gary Howsam
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