FIlm Review: "POLISSE"
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2012 11:05
I can’t help but feel incredibly conflicted about “POLISSE”. A work of stunning realism that regularly falls off the rails into cop-show melodrama, French actress Maïwenn’s latest film follows the Child Protection Unit of the French police as they deal with malicious parents, uninterested higher-ups, condescending peers, and tension within the ranks. It’s a movie that feels like a TV show, and for once the monotonous structure actually works – watching case-after-case, tragedy-after-tragedy envelop these people really drives the struggle of the job into your head in the way a procedural never could; for once we have a cop film that focuses on the job and the characters instead of one single case.
But unfortunately, Maïwenn is not always serving such realism. She feels the need (perhaps because the film would be too non-narrative otherwise) to work in all of the “cop show standards”, if you will: the viciously uninterested captain, the alpha-male with a dark past who cares too much, two women whose tension slowly grows into an office-splitting hate: it may have an incredibly daring structure, but it slips in all the same conversations, arguments, and characters that you’ve probably seen on TV procedurals on a weekly basis.
For every brilliant scene dealing with the job – like one, where our characters (I won’t say heroes, as Maïwenn is wonderfully critical of everyone here) have to interview a girl who saw no problem in trading oral sex to retrieve her stolen phone because “it’s a smartphone” – there’s another played-out scene where a dedicated officer tries to appeal to the interests of the cartoon villain that is his captain. It’s inspired look at the humanity of an inhuman job, intermittently interrupted by melodramatic clichés.
And it’s never worse than in the film’s finale, which betrays its own structure (of day-to-day monotony) in an attempt to make a point it really doesn’t need to make. The film is at it’s best when it is really about these peoples lives – watching them work, play, fall in love. But whenever Maïwenn (who casts herself in the film as a photographer, something no director has ever come up with before) feels compelled to make a higher point with her film it loses all the energy and originality the grounded structure brought to it. Cut off the last ten minutes, and you have a grand statement about the day-to-day troubles of working as a cop. As it stands, it collapses into the ground.