LOST BULLET (BALLE PERDUE) (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Facing a murder charge, a genius mechanic with a criminal past must track down a missing car containing the proof of his innocence: a single bullet.
Lest we forget that the French don’t just do romantic dramas, ‘Lost Bullet’ is as good a reminder as any that they were behind such solid B-movie staples as ‘Taxi’, ‘Taken’ and ‘District 13’. Co-written and directed by first-timer Guillaume Pierret, it is a lean and unfussy crime thriller that emphasises practical stunts over visual effects, and delivers the action goods in capable and confident fashion over its one-and-a-half hour duration.
Starring former stuntman Alban Lenoir as a former criminal turned mechanic for the French police’s ‘go fast’ task force, the movie has Lenoir’s Lino caught in a cat-and-mouse game with the crooked cops who had framed for a murder he didn’t commit. The only means to clear his name is a bullet which the real culprit Arehad inadvertently left embedded in the dashboard of the victim’s car, a red Renault which will feature prominently in the film’s final chase.
Than get bogged down in exposition, Pierret keeps the set-up simple. The opening tells of how Lino ended up in jail after getting stuck in his jacked-up Renault Clio that has just rammed into the window of a jewellery shop; the next scene shows how Lino is recruited as a mechanic for the ‘go fast’ taskforce by its chief Charas (Ramzy Bedia); and right after a sequence establishing how the said taskforce goes after drugmongers, the following scene shows how Lino is framed for Charas’s murder after going to visit his younger brother Quentin (Rod Paradot) with news of his early release.
From that point on, it is plenty of running, as Lino is picked up by the police, manages to escape, hooks up with Quentin and Charas’s former lieutenant Julia (Stefi Celma) to try to clear his name, and then retrieves the Renault to confront Charas’s killer and his henchmen. Like we said, Pierret’s emphasis is on real effects than CGI, so don’t be expecting the sort of outrageous sequences in the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies; instead, Pierret keeps it down-to-earth and lets Lenoir prove that he has what it takes to be the next Jason Statham.
It is exhilarating stuff all right, especially the piece de resistance set in a police station where Lino executes a him-versus-a-dozen-cops brawl that isn’t as brutal as ‘The Raid’ but intended to be just as heavily physical. Lenoir keeps the pace tight yet measured, and while you’ll have to wait till the very end for the next actual set-piece, there are a number of chases and shootouts shot legibly and edited fluidly that will keep you rooting and cheering for Lino.
On his part, Lenoir carries the part with both low-key charisma and genuine physicality. What he may lack in crowd-pleasingness, Lenoir certainly makes up for in earnestness, such that you’ll be hard-pressed to dismiss his character’s redemption story amidst the chases and fisticuffs. Lenoir had also boarded the project early to design the film’s action next to Pierret, and that collaboration pays off in how the actor ensures that he performs most of the stunts within by himself.
That commitment is part of the reason why ‘Lost Bullet’ ultimately proves highly watchable. It may lack the sort of grandiose action which Hollywood does, but in keeping it real and keeping it tight, this French thriller manages to hold its own in the same way as its other Gallic genre predecessors. Lenoir says the movie was written with sequels in mind; seeing what he and Pierret have pulled off here, we hope it may see the same longevity as the ‘Taxi’ franchise did.
Review by Gabriel Chong