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Home / Articles / Cinema / Movie Reviews /  So Much for Plot

So Much for Plot

Polisse is big, messy and emotional

May 30, 2012, 12:00 am
Polisse won the Grand Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and was nominated for 13 César Awards, the French equivalent of the  Academy Awards. The film won two—Best Editing and Most Promising Actress for Naidra Ayadi, who’s on screen for maybe 12 minutes.

Clearly the people nominating and awarding Polisse were sucked in by its premise and overlooked its many flaws. The movie, about a group of police detectives in the Parisian Child Protection Unit, has some serious melodrama and good performances. However, it also has banal dialogue, threadbare characterization and editing that seems like it was done with a razor blade, scotch tape and zero finesse. Hardly award-winning.

We can think of no easier way to get audience emotions escalated to frenzied levels than putting children in danger, and Polisse has plenty of children in danger.

That’s right; these cops protect children or arrest those who have done children harm. In real life, that’s a noble pursuit. In the movies, it’s lazy plotting.

Not that the film has much plotting. Rather than building a coherent narrative, Polisse dumps us into a series of vignettes—cops place gypsy kids in foster care; cop arrests a woman she sees shaking a baby on the street; cops track down missing drug-addled mother and infant.

After finding the drug-addled mother and infant, the entire group waits on edge at the precinct to hear whether the baby will come out of a coma. He does, and the cops celebrate buoyantly, as if one of them had won the lottery.

When dealing with missing and endangered children, the movie fires on all cylinders. How could it not? Who wants to see children in peril? The toughest scene involves Fred, a cop, holding a boy of about 4 years old as he screams for his mother, who is homeless and can’t keep the child with her on the streets. The tears streaming down Fred's face look real. The boy’s screams are heartbreaking.

The film has several sort-of leads, including partners Iris (Marina Foïs) and Nadine (Karin Viard), who seem really tight until they have a contrived and violent fight, and new recruit Gabriel (Jérémie Elkaïm, who was so good in Declaration of War but here has little to do).

Then we have the unit captain, Baloo (the usually reliable Frédéric Pierrot), who’s given the impossible task of delivering a monologue to his wife about why he’s an uptight prick. The dialogue, nearly identical to a scene in Michael Mann’s Heat, is hackneyed and lame. Pierrot doesn’t pull it off. (Al Pacino couldn’t, either.)

Polisse’s conclusion is self-defeating, totally unbelievable and bizarrely appropriate. Given the film’s messy structure, underdeveloped characters and overblown emotions, it follows that the ending is as haphazard as everything that came before it. Suffer little children. And adults. And audience.

Polisse
Directed by Maïwenn
With Jérémie Elkaïm, Marina Foïs, and Karin Viard
CCA Cinematheque
127 min.
NR

 

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