Published Mar 17, 2011Coming from Days of Glory and London River director Rachib Bouchareb, it's not a surprise that Outside the Law is incredibly didactic, structured almost entirely on thesis and example. He's not one for subtlety, nor is he particularly interested in offering the audience anything other than an endless medicinal parade of his politics, which is great for those that love slanted, expositional historical explorations, but somewhat annoying for anyone looking for something a little more layered and engaging than tedious undergraduate bitching.
This time out, the subject is that of the Algerian independence movement, spearheaded by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), in the mid-'50s. But before it gets there, we're treated to a scene of foreshadowing wherein Algerian officials enforce the French colonial Indigenousness Code, dispossessing a humble family from their home. We're also privy to a protracted scene of slaughter during the 1945 Sétif Massacre, wherein French authorities killed several protestors, marking a turning point for Franco-Algerian relations.
We're then introduced to three brothers, all with different degrees of involvement in the revolution: Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), the brutal aggressor; Messaoud (Roschdy Zem), the morally conflicted one; and Saïd (Jamel Debbouze), the periphery opportunist.
It's the usual potpourri of fraternal drama associated with these types of films; I think even X-Men Origins: Wolverine took this tired route. But it wasn't quite so laboured as to structure every scene around cause and effect, literally having characters stand around stating, "We'll see how the French respond when we blow up their factories," followed by a scene of news reports about said factories blowing up, a shift ahead in time and new wardrobes for all. The rationale for revolution is hammered home repeatedly, leaving only the necessity of character obstacle to reinforce the theme of change in a time of opposition.
Fortunately, there are a couple of dazzling action sequences, such as a stylized, propulsive shootout with Abdelkader and Messaoud gunning their way out of a French police station, as well as a protracted shootout between the police and the FLN. Of course, the brutality and vitality of these sequences partially contradict the rigid political posturing central to the narrative, but are at least more engaging than the endless array of preceding expository rants. (VSC)