A routine flavor sensation for genre movie buffs who have become acquainted with the wave of dark crime ficks originating in France over the past few years, Paris Countdown (original title: Le jour attendra, or, literally, "day wait") serves up a familiar-tasting dish. And no wonder: the producers of this film also helped bring forth the notably doom-laden Point Blank and A Gang Story.
The latter picture was based on the book Pour une poignée de cerises, a sprawling true-life account of a famed French criminal outfit, co-authored by Edgar Marie, who is making his directorial debut here. Marie's screenplay is original only in that it is not based directly on any other sources. Together, Marie's writing and directing are best described as cool and dispassionate, getting the job done efficiently, if not memorably, in less than 90 minutes.
Having established that Paris Countdown is content to percolate calmly as commercial fare -- drink it quick before it gets cold! -- I readily acknowledge that it offers certain qualities that are missing from similar productions, whatever their country of origin. Chiefly, it's a pleasure to watch a movie built around two middle-aged characters who have resigned themselves to their personality defects.
As played by Jacques Gamblin and Olivier Marchal, it's easy to believe that the two are lapsed friends who have known each other for decades. They ran a nightclub together, one of them got into severe money troubles, debts to mobsters were incurred, a drug deal was arranged, a betrayal was committed, the friendship was broken, someone else went to prison, and now, six years later, that someone is out and bent on revenge. Of course, that someone is a murderous sort who takes pleasure in hurting people, and we know dead bodies will accumulate during the course of the story.
So, yes, not much new there, but Gamblin and Marchal manifest combustible chemistry together, talking quietly rather than spitting out hard-bitten dialogue. The most meaningful moments are presented without speech, relying on facial gestures and the exchange of eye contact to make impact. Really, the slow-motion scenes would play better without the slow-motion, but, still, it's a minor indulgence that matches up well with the general temper of the movie as a whole.
When the ingredients are broken down, Paris Countdown may be considered nothing more than French-noir comfort food, but I enjoyed its fleeting pleasures immensely. Whether you consider that description a compliment or an insult is a matter of personal taste.
The film opens in select U.S. theaters on Friday, November 8. It will also be available to watch via various Video On Demand platforms. Visit the official site for more information.