Antigang (The Squad) – Benjamin Rocher

Unknown-1Rocher’s cops ‘n robbers Antigang is a pale imitation of its more polished transatlantic cousins. There are enough extended gun fights and car chases to satisfy hardened fans of action movies, but Rocher can’t seem to decide whether or not to take his characters seriously. The beginning of the film gives some indication of his dilemma. During the opening sequence, the action is frozen mid shoot-out while the actor’s name is emblazoned across the screen in true comic book fashion.  Overseeing all the testosterone fuelled action is veteran actor Jean Reno as a tough cop in charge of a band of ethnically diverse, young hot heads who routinely break the rules in the interests of upholding the law. It all seems very dated which is not surprising as the film is based on the British TV series The Sweeney which was hugely popular back in the 1970s. It’s not the first remake – Nick Love directed Ray Winstone in a 2012 version.  And it’s difficult to see what keeps directors coming back to the same old, tired formula.

Legendary cop Serge Buren (Reno) has gathered together a group of young police recruits who have developed unconventional methods of arresting suspected criminels. Buren’s methods are unpopular with the new police commissioner Becker (Thierry Neuvic) who wants them to concentrate on more traditional police work. But while Buren tries to toe the line, Paris is being terrorised by a ruthless criminal gang who are carrying out a violent wave of bank and jewellery store robberies  And it looks like Buren’s team is the only one capable of putting the gang behind bars.
Alban Lenoir is Buren’s young partner Cartier. The actor made headlines a few months ago as the lead in Diastème’s Un Français banned in some French cinemas for its violence and portrayal of the far right movement in France.  He changes tack completely here and is clearly working overtime to maintain the fast pace demanded by an action movie. He also provides most of the backchat with Reno and a good deal of the muscled fight sequences which unfortunately come across as too staged and unconvincing.  Nontheless he stands apart from the other under-developed characters who make up Buren’s motley crew.  As for Reno, he is now in his late 60s and, even by French standards, due for retirement from roles which demand this kind of physical effort.
While there’s no shortage of blood and violence in Antigang, only one scene pitching the gang against Buren’s young turks creates any real tension.  Pedestrians scatter as the cops chase the criminals, both sides with machine guns blazing, along the capital’s Left Bank. If only Rocher had concentrated on these high-octane battles instead of veering off into a less-satisfying sub plot detailing Buren’s antagonistic relationship with Becker, possibly fuelled by the fact that Buren’s is having an affair with Becker’s wife, former Bond girl Caterina Murino.  Eric Barbier’s Le Dernier Diamant (The Last Diamond) demonstrated French directors can take on their American counterparts when it comes to tense, well-constructed thrillers. Rocher’s Antigang is not in the same league.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *