Film Review: Racer and the Jailbird

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Director: Michaël R. Roskam

15 | 2h 10min | Crime, Drama | 13 July 2018 (UK)

RATING: ★★★☆

This stylish and sexy crime epic from Oscar nominated director Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead, The Drop), is quite a strange beast. With a plot set against the backdrop of high-speed racing and high-stakes heists France, and featuring the very good-looking duo of Adele Exarchopoulos and Matthias Schoenaerts, its easy to imagine this will be a French-language remix of The Getaway or Out of Sight.

Certainly the first half seems to set the ball rolling in that direction. As a member of a slick, professional Brussels gang renowned for their expertly-executed robberies (think Robert De Niro's crew in Michael Mann's Heat), Gigi (Matthias Schoenaerts) operates as the respectable front and finance-handler; running a luxury automobile import-export business in his downtime. However, in keeping with the classic heist-movie trope, this male crime pro gets his 'code' whacked out of alignment when when he meets glamorous and affluent race car driver Bibi (Adele Exarchopoulos), and despite their wildly different backgrounds, the pair fall instantly (and I mean instantly, it happens in literally two successive short scenes) in love. Amongst some genuinely thrilling car race and heist sequences (one highlight involves a container dropped off a bridge onto a armoured convoy), we see a somewhat predictable plot rhythm emerge as Gigi attempts to break away from his gang so he can stop lying to an increasingly suspicious Bibi and settle down, with 'one last job' threatening to put him behind bars for good.

As entertaining as the above is with its two charismatic leads, it is not an especially novel path for a 'crime couple' thriller to take, and it is in the last act that Racer kind of goes off the rails, with strange character motivations and what feel like too many plot contrivances muddying things. That being said, the film refreshingly keeps steering towards a critique of the male entitlement inhernet in a life spent lying to your female partner. Bibi's father, a smarter-than-he-looks garrulous type who didn't earn a fortune by being stupid, actually signals the direction the film is going in early on, warning Gigi when he asks for his daughter's hand that being a real man is really about learning not to lie.

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Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.