This film is a fast-paced thriller designed to keep the audience guessing until the final minutes. Despite a few clunky plot twists and turns it retains its credibility mainly due to the talent of its lead actor, Belgian-born Jérémie Renier.
Neither Renier nor director Jean-Baptiste Andrea are strangers to international film-goers. Renier was Eirik in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, while Andrea has directed a couple of films stateside (Dead End in 2003 and Big Nothing in 2006). This could account for the very transatlantic feel to La Confrerie which pays more attention to style and pace than in-depth character development.
Renier is Gabriel Chevalier, an ex-cop whose personal life has taken a nosedive. He’s a gambler, an alcoholic, a widower and single-parent to a rebellious teenage daughter. Unable to hold down regular work, he takes up the dubious offer of a job which involves sitting in an empty office waiting for the phone to ring. When it does, Chevalier is told to deliver a black briefcase to a specific address. One final instruction, he must never, ever, look inside the briefcase.
Working as a well-paid delivery man, Chevalier trots around the globe while gradually being pulled deeper into a world of hired assassins and hardened thugs until a line is crossed and he wants out. Unfortunately, the job has no expiry date and to protect his family and reset his moral compass, he must solve the mystery of what’s inside the black briefcase.
Andrea proves adept at building intrigue and tension in equal measure – a skill which goes to the heart of a good thriller. But La Conferie belongs to Renier. He has created a multi-layered anti-hero who seamlessly moves from being a tough man-of-action to an attentive, caring father. The scenes with his 12-year-old daughter Juliette show a completely different side to the ex-cop which helps to excuse some of his later, more erratic behaviour. Only his relationship with Clare Foczensky (Audrey Fleurot) a female police officer, hits a false note. Perhaps in the style of American movies, a ‘love interest’ is de rigeur? But here it only creates a time-consuming and contrived parenthesis to a film which was getting along fine all on its own. In 2012, Renier won huge plaudits in France for his brilliant portrayal in the film Cloclo of popular French-singer Claude François, most famous for co-writing the song ‘My Way’. He is a hugely watcheable actor and his role as Chevalier is once again a testament to his versatility. In cinemas in France: 9/10/2013