Published Aug 27, 2009As anyone who caught Liam Neeson throat-punching his way across Paris with crowd-pleasing aplomb in Pierre Morel's Taken can tell you, the French are making some of the best action movies going. Black, a thrill-a-minute diamond heist flick, further attests to French cinema's move beyond new wave art house aesthetics or the philosophized splatter of the New French Extremity.
Starring MC Jean Gab'1 (best known as the villain in Morel's District 13) as the titular ex-pat Senegalese gangster, Black packs in enough car chases, charm, tense shootouts and double- (and triple-) crosses to satiate anyone looking for an antidote to the almost hyperbolic stupidity of post-Crank 2 action cinema.
When a handful of diamonds arrive at the Dakar bank, a game of telephone results in the value of the cache increasing exponentially. Before long, Black and his crew of misfit Paris gangsters are en route to Senegal to pull off what should be a routine job. Of course, like any decent follow-the-money picture, a couple more cooks crash the kitchen, ending up in loyalties shifting and bullets flying as the interested parties attempt to intercept the invaluable rocks.
Playfully mixing genres, as most any genre picture now must in order to feign novelty, Black borrows its cues equally from Snatch, Shaft in Africa and the Indiana Jones films. Integrating everything from shootouts with cops to evil ex-Soviet mercenaries, cartoon-ish Senegal natives carrying machetes and an enormous, mystical snake, Black moves at the sort of breakneck pace that never leaves you time to wonder how Laffargue is getting away with all his chaotic genre-bending.
That Laffargue, like so many other genre filmmakers, is essentially trading in well-worn tropes, tokens and archetypes doesn't seem to matter considering how mindlessly fun his film is. Carried by Gab'1's charismatic performance, Black proves that when dealt out liberally enough, some well-orchestrated action can easily outweigh any expectations of originality. (Evokative)