Movie: Foreign films often allow us to see things through the eyes of an outsider, with different perceptions and cultural norms, making their insights all the more interesting. I've seen dozens of crime dramas over the years that dealt with drug dealers but came across one this week that seemed a cut above the rest. It was a French film, An Honest Dealer (AKA: Un Honnete Commercant), and it kept me glued to my seat once it took hold of my attention.
The movie started off with a man, Hubert Verkamen (Benoit Verhaert) being questioned in a small French police interrogation room. There had been a professional murder of a family and he is their lead suspect. He is obviously far more intelligent than the inspectors assigned to the case and through a series of happenstances we get to see his rise from a lowly tax inspector to the head of a major criminal heroin ring. Much more realistic than the stereotypical crooks we get to see in domestically made movies, the workings of Hubert's mind were revealed bit by bit as he played cat and mouse with the two inspectors. His rise through the ranks from an accountant were all done in such a manner that made them believable including his flaws that ultimately proved to cloud up whether or not he did, in fact, kill the people in question. As his corruption grew, we see him go from a man who detested violence to one who embraced it as a fact of life.
In general terms, I liked the movie because of all the attention to minute details. Not just those details that was obvious about the characters but their surroundings as well. The interaction between the two inspectors, both knowing he's as guilty as sin and hoping he makes a mistake as he toys with them, and the "honest merchant" who has some dark secret that he's hiding which compels him to continue the game, even though he knows they are looking for a slip up.
The only part that I didn't quite get was why the director/writer wrote in the part of the long dead mentor to Hubert as a ghost of sorts since it didn't seem to make much sense. As the drama played through, I went from my initial boredom (it started off slowly) to sitting on the edge of my seat without even realizing it. Once it took off, the pacing was very deliberate but fast and I learned to appreciate the movie as a whole. On subsequent viewings, I noticed the camera work and other technical matters were very much a part of the movie, not unlike Hitchcock, rather than a by-the-numbers crime drama made on a small budget. I wanted to know "why" he killed the family and "why" he was playing the game with the police when he could've left them at any time. Far too often when watching a movie, I'm not pushed by the material to think much and this was a refreshing change.
I think this was worth a rating of Highly Recommended for fans of crime dramas and foreign cinema. I'm not familiar with anyone involved with this movie enough to say if it was just a fluke or chemistry between the creative side and technical side but whatever it was, I hope to see more of it in the future.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color. There was some grain and minor video noise at times but otherwise the picture looked clear. I didn't notice any artifacts or other problems associated with the dvd transfer.
Sound: The sound was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo French with optional English subtitles. It was very clear with the vocals, soundtrack, and special effects all supportive of the story and sounding solid.
Extras: There were none.
Final Thoughts: This was an interesting case study on the evolution of a man driven to extremes into becoming exactly the opposite of what he started out as. It showed moments of being clever and other moments where I was so caught up in the events unraveling that I doubt I'd have been able to walk away without first seeing the whole film. I would've appreciated some extras to round out the package a bit but I was happy with the movie itself.