The Army Of Crime - Blu-ray Review

'the director's stifling pace and failure to inject any visual flourish or investment conspire to make this perfunctory and mundane'

A paint-by-numbers World War Two resistance thriller, The Army Of Crime is functional film making at close to its worst, this true-story tale of the French underground being imbued with little zip and zeal, despite its worthy subject matter. Director Robert Guédiguian perhaps falls foul of treating the disparate band of ostracised individuals who make up the film's main focus with too much respect as he plods through an inflated one hundred and thirty nine minute run time with a distinct lack of urgency, consistently picking and choosing the wrong moments to focus on.

It's close to an hour in, for example, when the group headed by Armenian poet Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian) first come into existence, hitherto only shown on screen as isolated individuals, attempting to carry out acts of sabotage or survival with varying levels of success. The problem with this is that the focus of the first hour seems to be at the sacrifice of significant moments in the final third. At one point, we are told that Thomas (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) escaped from and shot three Nazi officers on the metro but like so many events in the closing moments, it happens off-screen, sacrificed in favour of the initial slow development.

It's not that I was watching Army hungry for action scenes either. Monique (Lola Naymark) is an incredibly interesting character who becomes very important to the group, but in the first third you'd be forgiven for not noticing her as the focus wavers between other parties and mundane interactions.

Abrakarian and Virginie Ledoyen lead the piece well and both have significant presence on screen but Guédiguian's stifling pace and failure to inject any visual flourish or investment, coupled with a translation that even I could tell was inaccurate in places, conspire to make this perfunctory and mundane. A real shame considering the importance and potential in the subject matter, which evidently would make more sense and have more worth as a documentary.

Look further...

'a showcase for martyrdom at the expense of both accuracy and entertainment' - Film School Rejects, C+

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