Director: Olivier Marchal
Starring: Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil,
Andre Dussolier, Valeria Golino
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Festive Films & Shaw
Rating: NC-16 (Some Intimate Scenes)
Opening Day: 18 August 2005
PARIS. For several months an incredibly violent gang has been
successfully holding up armoured bank vans. The chief of Police,
Robert Mancini (Andre Dussolier) has been quite frank with
the two lieutenants under his command, Leo Wrinks (Daniel
Auteuil) and Denis Klein (Gerard Depardieu) : whoever manages
to bust this gang will replace him as the "Chief"
at the Police HG, located 36 Quai des Orfevres. The fight
is on between these two super cops, who once were friends,
and now are at odds about everything: their private lives,
their methods, their staff and a woman, Camille Wrinks (Valeria
A cheerless building comes to sight in the grim darkness,
the high fences indicating anything but warmth. We hear a
man’s cry echoing in the empty courtyard, it is one
of helpless desperation, of anguish and indescribable tragedy,
more affecting than a thousand words could stir. It is a simple
scene, a flashback, but one of mastery – we don’t
know anything yet, the movie’s barely begun, but the
woe is immediate and penetrating. Perfection.
easily sums up the feel of the entire movie – perfection.
It is a story told to death: two policemen toeing the boundaries
of morality, righteousness and friendship, but the movie is
so well done that I gave up obsessing over the clichés
and began embracing them, appreciating the skill involved
in the sculpting and perfecting of the characters. Credit
for that goes in no small part to the two leads, Daniel Auteil
and Gerard Depardieu, both legends in their own rights. Both
give equally stunning performances, the depth and ambiguity
accorded to their respective roles allowing them to flex some
serious acting muscle.
plays the part of Léo Vrinks, head of the BRI (rough
equivalent of an Anti-Gang Squad), and Depardieu is Denis
Klein, head of the BRB (Organized Crime Unit). The two units
are traditional enemies but Klein and Vrinks appear to be
friends, to the incredulous disbelief of Vrink’s colleague.
In the simplest of terms, Vrinks plays good cop to Klein’s
bad cop, the former honorable and the latter power craving.
The friendship slowly dissolves as they race to nab the “Van
Gang”, a brazen gang of robbers who strike in the broad
daylight – whoever captures the quarry will be promoted.
the middle of the two men stands Camille (Valeria Golino),
Vrinks’s wife and Klein’s ex. The triangular relationship
is only subtly hinted and thankfully never belabored; any
more elaboration would have killed the pace of the movie.
There are several important details involving Vrinks’s
staunch subordinates, his family and his personal friend Manou,
but revealing any of it will probably decrease rather than
enhance your viewing pleasure. It is perhaps enough to know
that nothing mentioned is unnecessary, as everything leads
neatly to the final resolution.
may find the conclusion anti-climactic (I found it slightly
contrived) but it is, in any case, gratifying. Others may
find fault in the predictability of parts of the film but
personally, I thought there were enough individually outstanding
scenes in the movie, easily worth the price of admission,
to redeem the superfluous (but necessary) segments. One of
the most vivid scenes in the film involves the raiding of
the house of a suspect that results in Vrinks’s violent
removal from the room: the choreography is nothing short of
first half of “36” will be no doubt be a treat
for all action-lovers, the second half less so. Regardless,
the movie’s ability to hit all the right buttons is
constant throughout, what works is that it manages to stay
interesting despite the transition from action to drama. While
the first half examines the nuances and excitement involved
with being a police, the second half explores the nuances
and ambiguity of the two main characters.
an operation becomes a fiasco through Klein’s reckless
contribution, he uses his austere reputation to save himself
– who wouldn’t? At the same time, he opportunely
obtains evidence of some of Vrinks’s shady dealings,
and uses them to condemn and eliminate his rival. Once again,
who wouldn’t? Vrinks, for one, probably would.
ambiguity that revolves around the seemingly righteous Vrinks
elevates the character from his stereotype; he is simultaneously
violent and moral, his methods and means of obtaining information
no more justified, if only more romantic and gracious than
Klein’s ruthless ways. And yes, Klein will stop at nothing
to get to the top, but he is also merely, desperately trying
to do his job, the one thing he has any shot of excelling
in. The layered character study of good and bad is expert
and increasingly subtle; no one is the complete “good
guy” here. In fact, “good” is largely inappropriate:
they are all bad, some worse than others and none better,
only “less worse”.
all the respectable qualities this movie has, the acting is
what lifts, supports and anchors the film, granting it with
credibility and taut momentum. Depardieu in particular has
a field day with Klein’s malevolence but, impressively,
still manages to convey a defiant vulnerability under that
crusty frame. Auteil with Vrinks on the other hand is dignified
but conflicted and everything rueful. They are stirring, genuine,
affecting and everything a director could wish for.
shady world of these cops is beautifully shot and rich with
cool hues yet it still somehow manages to appear gritty and
muted; the cinematography is slick precisely because it isn’t
flashy. The editing is tight but never strained, though the
pace towards the end is perhaps not risky enough. Yet, with
a genre and story that seemed self-exhausting, it is truly
remarkable that “36” managed to surprise and amaze
so frequently. As mentioned, there are several scenes that
are superlative in execution and some that are less so, but
by effectively punctuating strong scenes with weaker ones,
vice versa, the filmmakers have created something beautifully
flawed yet truly seamless. Indeed, “36” is what
happens when tried and tested formulas are perfected.
engaging and breathtaking, “36” is an exquisite
melding of cinematic elements, and testament that clichés
can be undone. Simply superb!)
by Angeline Chui