x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

22 Bullets

Loosely based on a true story, Jean Reno plays the Marseille criminal who survives an attempt on his life – he is shot 22 times.

Jean Reno stars in 22 Bullets.
Jean Reno stars in 22 Bullets.

22 Bullets
Director: Richard Berry
Starring: Jean Reno, Marina Foïs, Kad Merad

Forget Paris. When it comes to cinema's Gallic gangsters, the French port of Marseille has always been a hive of villainy - from Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo's charismatic 1930s thugs in Borsalino to the drug-dealers in French Connection II.

Now we can add another, Charly Matteï (Reno) – though, like all criminals with half a brain, he's taken early retirement to enjoy family life. Things change, however, when he remarkably lives through a car park-staged attempt on his life, surviving the slugs of the title (little wonder the French title translates as "The Immortal"). Out for revenge, and up against some old friends and foes, on his case is a female police officer (Foïs) determined to stop his vendetta. But as the story unfolds, the clichés start to stack up like empty shell-casings. Like Reno's previous crime genre forays (from Luc Besson's Léon to John Frankenheimer's Ronin), there's no denying 22 Bullets has style and swagger. Some scenes - from the opening hit to Charly entangled in a mesh of barbed wire – are memorably staged, while Reno portrays his man with his usual gruff charm. In his fourth film, Berry (who also plays a rival gangster in the film) directs briskly, while the script gives Reno the odd moment of comic whimsy. But, despite this hailing from a true story, neither Berry nor Reno can truly elevate it beyond being a visceral potboiler, pure and simple. Those seeking an undemanding night out should apply.