First of all: I didn't really like this movie, and I wanted to.
Daniel Auteuil, the genre, a serial... But no, when I saw the clichés piling up it reminded me of another French tank policier which turned out to be pulp... yes, "36 Quai des Orfebrès". Luckily I hadn't found out on IMDb that they were issued by the same director. If "real life cop experience" makes you put a wife left in coma from "an accident", a child victim from a family murderer, who cries all the time (sometimes flooding) is herself a victim of a bad job, bad relationships with her boyfriend and sister, wait until you see his grandfather die (she sobs again), all her pregnancy, including two stressful events, then childbearing, on camera, long shots of her sweating, then the child's face on camera... What does it have to do with the story? Do we need this to elicit some automatic empathy for any character? If we want to watch a silly sick movie like "Mr. Holland's Opus", which can only resort to low blows because it has nothing to say, go ahead. But this film could have been good. It should have been great.
It's a pity, Marchal's got a great CV as an actor (!) as well as a writer and director. I just don't like his way of "emotional blackmail", that the Argentine writer J. L. Borges wrote about 50 years ago. He liked the genre, I suspect he wouldn't like this tergiversation.
I've just learned this is the last part of a trilogy, starting with "Gangsers" (2002), then followed by 36 Quai des Orfèvres (nothing to do with the 1947 movie, that was way more daring for its age). Any of the 3 has actors that would make any budding director dream: grouchy Gérard, André Dussollier, Anne Parillaud, Francis Renaud and Olivia Bonamy here. He is very believable (something of Madeleine R. IMDb readers?) . She could make a rock weep. Here she is given such lame material that it only hints at what she could do. Like the "motive" for her to want to track Charles Subra. "Ask him if he had changed". Come' on...! He killed her family, but did his time (= in jail) as a law abiding citizen, but now he's free, we secretly want him killed, and so does she. If not, why ask him with a dishonest kiss to "find him"? If everybody knows he's a loose cannon? But she's got to remain "purely good". Then, she's got to babble something ludicrous as her leitmotif? The problem is that it's the core of this bad movie. Ah, the cliché of "the woman who could be his daughter that puts some order and romance into a loner looser with addiction(s) isn't something you've seen a million times? Again, superb IMDb community of reviewers, help me out with names commenting this review, in your own, add a thread or something.
I just don't want to write this review. The only scene I liked was the predictable dog accident with his sidekick. Schneider seems really angry, like if nothing he does could ever turn right. Auteuil has to overact all his other "anger scenes" so as to carry on with this boring film. Like the "botched And at the morgue" scene, the fight with Kovalski, his constant drunkenness, etc. At Quai he's also got to endure jail, unfair condemnation even from his family, bereavement (sounds familiar :)?). Even the filming style here of the melodramatic scenes is the same. In fact, that's what made me think I had seen the same film before... it was Quai :(! Music is good when playing the obsessive tune Schneider gets on his head. Kovalski gets the best line, the good if not superb: "cops are like family, we don't betray each other" (to the fat forensic/ photographer, smuggler). Now that I think about it, I'm surprised he didn't wind up dead. I also liked Subra's pretence of redemption, totally feigned convincingly, so much he fools Kovalski. Which is not so surprising given he fits the profile of the classic psychopath. Emmanuel Carrière in the book that originated the infinitely better "L'Adversaire" (also starring Auteuil) narrates how the true case of a guy who murdered basically all his family, including parents and in laws, even almost got rid of her lover too, all during a long period (not in a fit or rage or something), later in jail converted to extreme religious zeal. Sounds familiar, right?
Catherine Marchal does a fine emphatic psychologist. Yes, she's smart and beautiful (her sleek attire and ultra stylish car does help), but doesn't she have the same surname as the director? Oh my.
I liked the lighting. All the whites are too white, blinding. "Saturating" or whatever is the jargon for that. I suppose it follows some esthetical motivation, all I can say is it added some mysticism sorely wanting in the film. What I mean is, photography is probably the best this movie has. Even Subra in jail, washing or being put back into prison make you feel trapped, like if you were really there, grey walls, into constant "greyness".
Watch this film, don't get me wrong. The ending is worth it. But don't harbour great expectations, and you won't be disappointed. Like most things in life, I guess :).