Dead in France (2013)

Description (from deadinfrance.com):
Socially-challenged hitman Charles lives in Cannes and wants to retire with a yacht and a woman in tow. He has no experience with either until he lets his cleaning lady (delectable Essex-girl Lisa) into his life, but he doesn’t bank on her vile boyfriend Denny or con-artists Simon and Ray stealing a two million quid nest egg from the boot of his car. Charles hunts them down across the Cote d’Azur whilst pursued by his rival Clancy who is incensed by the fact that Charles might actually be retiring.

Major Cast:
Celia Muir as Lisa, Brian A. Levine as Charles, Darren Bransford as Denny, Kate Loustau as Clancy, Lee Cheney as Simon, James Privett as Raymond, Richard Raynesford as Jacques

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel

Written by Brian A. Levine and Kris McManus
Directed by Kris McManus

The featured quote on the press material for DEAD IN FRANCE reads “Tarantino meets Ritchie,” which immediately made me take notice, and then be a bit wary.  I like Tarantino, I like(d) Ritchie; but the films that Ritchie does well are basically Tarantino films with a cockney accent, so this quote is a bit redundant.  Eye-catching, but redundant.

DiF starts off with a brilliant piece of comedic violence that cements the tone for the rest of the film.  While DiF is a film about a hitman – or rather, hitmen – it is not a crime drama, it is very much a (black) comedy in every sense.  There is some violence, and in some cases it gets decently grotesque, but like Ritchie it is really just the punch line to a visual joke more than an actually aggressive film.  The opening, where Charles lets his mark kill himself by wandering off a cliff rather than just shooting him, sets the comedic tone (nice inset shots of the mark hitting bits on the way down and swearing) and also introduces us to Charles’ character.  He’s a hitman, and he’s gonna do his job, but he’s not taking the pleasure in it that some of his counterparts (e.g. Clancy) do, and this is likely because he is about to retire.

I said dance!  Now cha-cha...
I said dance! Now cha-cha…

The comedic situations presented are half of the comedy equation, the other is the dialogue; DiF is not quite Tarantino/Ritchie level wit, but it certainly has some very funny bits.  “You don’t find it romantic in the movies, when the couple sails off into the sunset together?” asks Charles; “It’s a bit gay, inn’it?” retorts Lisa.  It was little spoken bits like this that actually made me laugh the most, while there is a lot of fun situational comedy and violence as well.  Some of the characters are a driving force behind the comedy as well; Charles is pretty straight forward, but then there’s Lisa the not-a-hooker cleaning lady scheming with her dirty boyfriend Denny, both of which were quite entertaining.  The con men were not as great, but Clancy – the other hitman, or hitwoman, or whatever – was a fun character, with her extreme lack of human remorse and love of violence.

The plot is twisty enough for a violent comedy.  There are turns that you don’t see too far out that add a nice driving force to the story, though none of it is overly original.  DiF really does feel like it wants to be a Ritchie movie, but just not as complicated or well thought out… it’s almost “Ritchie-lite.”  Not to say that DiF is a bad movie – it’s not – it’s just a very familiar feeling film.  On the contrary, I enjoyed a lot of the film; many of the characters were great (I especially liked Lisa and Clancy), some of the dialogue actually made me laugh out loud (which is tough to do), the violent bits were pretty extreme but not over the top to the point of being gross, and it was refreshing to see a movie in black and white.  I expected the B&W to be just for the intro, and when the opening credits came up, we would transition to color, so it was a nice surprise to have this stylistic choice made, and made the south of France setting all the more picturesque.

Lisa and Clancy meet, sparks do not fly.
Lisa and Clancy meet, sparks do not fly.

The production quality was decent overall.  The picture quality was not perfect, but I think this is from Breaking Glass trying to prevent piracy on their screeners – I had been told on an earlier release that looked HORRIBLE that this was on purpose because someone was uploading their screeners to YouTube before the release date, and to that “reviewer” that has broken that trust I say: you, sir or madame, are a dick – and I am glad to say that it is not nearly as bad as the video quality on 6 DEGREES OF HELL (review here), which was reduced to the point of being almost unwatchable.  From watching the preview online it is obvious that DiF was shot in HD, and the version you would see will look tons better than the version I watched.  The sound quality is pretty good overall; it has some moments that remind you that this is not a big-budget film, but it is never bad, just at worst mediocre.  The production design was pretty top-notch; there were no flamboyant costumes or extravagant locations (other than the whole, you know, south of France), but that was in relation to the story.  DiF did a good job making everyone and everything fit their part, from the badly done and offensive tattoos on Denny, to the .50 cal sniper rifle, it all fit.

Charles has a big gun, if you know what I'm sayin'...
Charles has a big gun, if you know what I’m sayin’…

Two of the pieces of this puzzle that really stood out to me were the editing and the cinematography.  The editing was more than just function, putting one scene after another, it really added to the film’s pacing and overall feel.  This is especially evident in the cleaning montage early in the film that introduces Lisa.  The cinematography also added a level of professionalism to a film with no really known actors.  There were a lot of nice shots – from the bird’s eye offset view of Charles’ 100th hit, to the wide picturesque shots of France, to the placement of a rubber ducky – as well as the whole decision to make the film in B&W.  This immediately adds a weight, some credibility, to the images presented on screen and makes the film seem more “arty” rather than just a black comedy about a hitman.

One of the best versions of the old "hide the junk with an object" joke, ever.
One of the best versions of the old “hide the junk with an object” joke, ever.

Overall, I enjoyed DiF.  It has some really funny bits, some really funny characters, and enough violence to carry you pal that likes the red stuff along for the ride.  The film is beautifully shot and well produced, and has a lot going for it.  My biggest drawback from the film was just that it felt too familiar, too much like it wanted to be a film made by someone else, and like a handful of films I have already seen.  While it certainly had its own original bits (gotta love that sex scene) that took it off on tangents that were a bit different, the ride as a whole was a ride I’ve been on quite a few times before.  If it had just worked itself into some different, uncharted territory, it would have been a much stronger film, but for what it is it was a lot of fun.

Overall 7 / 10

DiF on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1716739

DiF for sale (3/26/13): http://www.shop.breakingglasspictures.com/Dead-In-France-BGP354.htm

DiF site: http://www.deadinfrance.com/

Dead in France (2012)Theatrical Poster
Dead in France (2012)
Theatrical Poster
Dead in France (2013)US DVD Cover
Dead in France (2013)
US DVD Cover
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