5 June 2015 | tony_le_stephanois
Way ahead of its time
I remember vividly watching the film in 1996. It had a recommendation (as it says on the poster): 'Just as gritty as Reservoir Dogs'. We were disappointed. This wasn't Reservoir Dogs at all!
How wrong was I. Twenty years later there are a lot of documentary-like series about the lives of cops, for example Engranages. Well, L627 is EXACTLY as these TV series, but twenty years earlier. The cops from L627 and Engranages both work in the underbelly of Paris, where tourists won't come. We see the REAL lives of cops. Eating together, joking together, doing undercover operations together, shouting at each other, visiting squats. These are not the overly cool cops from other films, these are real people dealing with fears and tensions. The only thing from the series that is missing here, are judges and lawyers.
The thing that stands out, is how all kinds of stories are intertwined, just like in real life (and just like in Engranages), without leading towards a 'bad guy' to catch, as crime flicks usually do. It's about an hopeless fight against the drugs trade, without the proper resources. Suddenly you realize how much improvisation and intelligence this job needs. A job in which you even have to negotiate with a school director about using a classroom for a lookout, you can't have a decent car and have to pay your own camera when you want to film something.
No wonder it has been written by Tavernier together with a drug squad detective. With its two hours runtime L627 is almost as a mini TV series in itself. And just like Engranages and The Wire it boasts not only realism, but also terrific acting by a largely unknown cast. As in these series they have a wonderful chemistry together – for example when they are joking with each other. There's even one running joke
In the midst of all this is Lulu. He is only loosely the protagonist – as was Laure in Engranages (who has many similarities with the character of Marie in this film, by the way).
It isn't a pretty film, it has not really a cinematic feeling you are used to. But it is ahead of its time as many films nowadays are aiming at documentary-like realism. Therefore it demands a lot of attention and concentration in the beginning and it might be difficult to get into. It is certainly NOT the kind of film teenagers would like to see, I can say from my own experience.