The Law of the Weakest Lucas Belvaux

Lucas Belvaux once directed an interesting series of films called Trilogy, which intertwined the characters in a thriller, a drama and a farce to interesting intertextual effect. Unfortunately, Belvaux doesn’t go for such narrative plate spinning in The Law of the Weakest, and the results are only marginally satisfactory. Set in a Belgian industrial town, it deals with the desperate efforts of several unemployed workers to get ahead. Let go after the outsourcing of their jobs, they complain about their feelings of diminishment, and with no other options they hatch a scheme to rip off the fortune of a local scrap-metal magnate. What do you suppose are the chances it all goes wrong? There’s nothing especially bad about a movie that takes a stand against the globalised economy and sticks up for the displaced working class, but it’s essentially a film noir without the style and with way too much awareness of its importance. Though it’s nice to see blue collar folks neither treated with condescension nor made into maudlin "little people,” the characters often just illustrate points rather than operate as fully-formed people. Still, Belvaux himself is not bad as the ex-con who helps mastermind the operation (only to get cold feet at the last minute), and there’s enough good filmmaking to keep you watching through the longueurs. The final helicopter shot in particular is pretty good, suitably fatalistic and well worth waiting for. And for all of its blunt awkwardness, it offers a few social details (such as the housing difficulties of one wheelchair-bound protagonist) that you don’t normally see in movies. Still, this could have gone over the top instead of simmering somewhere around the middle, and I kind of rue the fact that it might have gone that distance with another pass through the typewriter. (Mongrel Media)