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Posts Tagged ‘Lads Ly’

Issa Perica

“LES MISERABLES” My rating: B+

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

From its first shot Ladj Ly’s Oscar-nominated (for best international feature) “Les Miserables” informs us that, no, this is not yet another remake of Victor Hugo’s classic 19th century tale.

The first thing we see is the face of young Issa (Issa Perica), a 14-year-old African immigrant living in a crime-riddled Paris suburb (ironically, the same burg in which Hugo wrote his masterpiece).  Issa is wrapped in the flag — literally — to attend a rally celebrating the French national soccer team’s recent victory. With thousands of other sports-mad Parisians he stands in the Champs-Élysées  singing “The Marseillais” and letting loose with victory roars.

For one glorious, transcendent moment Issa feels genuinely French.  It won’t last.

Ly’s film is a rapidly percolating thriller that views life in an immigrant enclave from several perspectives.

As with “Training Day,” our guide to this world of crime and social upheaval is a cop new to the scene. Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) has just come to this seething ‘burb from a cozy provincial post. He’s assigned to a three-man team to learn the ropes…and is less than comforted by what he observes.

His new partners are Chris (Alexis Manenti), a cocky casual racist who relishes every opportunity to bully and bend the rules, and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), a long-time resident of the neighborhood who’s regarded by his fellow citizens as a traitor for becoming a cop.

The police are only one element of the neighborhood’s ever-changing social order.  The place is run by the Mayor (Steve Tientcheu), a former gangster who now serves as the town’s fixer; he’s like an old-fashioned ward heeler who wins votes by dishing favors, and he’s not above turning to violence to enforce his will.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, bearded dudes trying to coax the local kids into more-or-less civilized behavior, have little but contempt for both the Mayor and the police.

Meanwhile the gypsy operators of a traveling circus are on the warpath because some black teen has stolen the owner’s beloved lion cub.

(more…)

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