Sep 5, 2010
Perhaps better known within the Western continents as 22 Bullets, L'Immortel is based loosely around the real life events of Jacky Le Mat, a mafioso who was shot 22 times and left for dead. As you can most likely assume, Le Mat survived and exacted bloody revenge on his assailants. As far as I can tell, this exposure of the "Revenge of the Professional" will no doubt draw comparisons to Vincent Cassel's Mesrine crime epic but allow me to assure you that in no way, shape, or form are these two films to be connected or juxtaposed aside from the country of origin and a sweeping tale of true crime reincarnated via cinema. My hopes for L'Immortel were exceedingly substantial after seeing a true return to form from Vincent Cassel at damn near his best and I could only hope the same for the Moroccan titan, Jean Reno. Sadly, L'Immortel never fully recognizes its potential until too late, giving us a sub-par film that secures its lead actor's potential a bit too far in.
Picking up with a quiet prelude was the smart and reasonable way to open this film of a bloodthirsty retiree; bloodthirsty being implied as Charly Matteï's bloody roots are never looked fiercely upon save for a single flashback scene of a youthful assassination. As Charly picks up his son from the grandmothers house, Reno gives us the same semblance of a giddy killer as seen and recycled from Leon: The Professional. One of several reasons why the film substitutes the need for plot consistency is due to Jean Reno's quirky and charming performance as a quiet, hulking killer with a heart of euphoric gold. After enjoying the company of his son, Charly lets him out of the car to explore a festival while he parks the car. Proceeding an overture of opera, a black unmarked van pulls up and 8 masked men get out with weapons drawn. Shot after shot, bullet after bullet, is buried in Jean Reno's body with a brutality unmatched by most crime films. Facial tearing and fleshy squib, L'Immortel opens up with a lit fuse waiting for the foundation to blast open and once it does, the onslaught of incredible editing and seamless violence becomes intertwined with the frustrating and mundane.
Key scene being the surgery and in this scene we are introduced to the characters running the film and motivations, the aforementioned 22 bullets. Voltage peaks at scene of slug removal - lead like candy. Metal dish stained red delicious with a heaving mound of clinking confections. Words that come to mind when this scene takes place. I had never thought my mind would so vividly explode with imagination as it did with Jean Reno's comatose body on a hospital gurney. 22 Bullets might forever be known as the "little thriller that couldn't" but it remains a career necessity and a stunning evolution of Jean Reno as a bad ass with a heart and serves as a prime weight on his character alignment scale. While I can appreciate all forms of the man's kindness, his entries of Crimson Rivers, Empire of the Wolves, and now, 22 Bullets, really help to even out his contributions of family friendly adult entertainment including Godzilla, The Big Blue, The Pink Panther, and For Roseanna. Marketing this film to an American audience is what the split personality of 22 Bullets has in mind. France has it right with a sprawling cityscape overshadowed by a near-crippled marauding mafioso. American audiences are instead treated with the poster concept of a tacky lookalike to that of a straight-to-DVD Al Pacino machine. Vending machine quality and all. The tag-line "Revenge of the Professional" is misconstrued in an attempt to market this film to fans of Leon: The Professional and the reoccurring affinity for classical music. Hook, line, sinker?
No matter what you hear, L'Immortel is simply and ethically one of those films in which the only opinion you can holster is your own. From someone who has an endearing appreciation for all of Jean Reno's line of work and bloody crime thrillers, L'Immortel is a bittersweet film caressing the honor system supposed in most of these killers in their call of duty. Jean Reno turns over an excellent and versatile performance as a wicked murderer not to be fucked with. Within his smile and wrinkles, his face tells a tale that every movie fleshes out. Behind wise eyes lurks a terrific character actor that accommodates real life emotion with a harrowing efficiency. Sadly, L'Immortel becomes ensnared by loose ends and patented revenge devices in such a way that the only real saving grace is the keen brutality and jolting violence. To quote Uzi Joe on the subject of Jean Reno's tears, "Each tear is a thousand souls of weaker men who died trying to gain his powers." Fantasy put to the side, I believe him.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:42 AM
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