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Boy from Lebanon, The
On a secluded militia camp, somewhere in Lebanon, a group of kids are trained to become assassins. One of them will have the honor of traveling to France where a high-profile target is to be eliminated.
Djilali (Teufik Jallab), the main protagonist in Giles de Maistre's Killer Kid (re-titled for US distribution as The Boy From Lebanon), quickly outpaces the rest of the competitors proving that he is the one.
In Paris, Djilali meets the enigmatic Karim (Younesse Boudache), a poor kid from the Arab suburbs of the city. While Djilali knows everything about guns and bombs Karim appears well-versed in rap music and women. The two click and eventually become friends. When the time finally comes for Djilali to carry out his mission he is faced with an impossible dilemma.
Despite the high praises and words of support The Boy From Lebanon received during its initial screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 this little seen in America film is anything but impressive. The story and directing are undoubtedly quite well done but the acting and editing certainly leave plenty of room for criticism.
The major area of concern in Giles de Maistre's work is undoubtedly the selection of actors who more often than not fail to convincingly recreate the iniquitous environment the film aims to achieve. Furthermore, poorly-written lines seem to drag the story substantially creating a comic effect during key scenes where supposedly the viewer is to be affected differently (an obvious example is the training camp fragment where Djilali is told that the Jews have killed his father).
While the message of The Boy From Lebanon might have been quite shocking a few years ago I certainly felt its rather mellow middle section nowadays would likely put a smile on plenty of faces. Not because there is anything funny in seeing kids being trained to become assassins but because the director's camera reveals a level of circumspection that borders kitsch. Especially when the majority of the lines used by Djilali come so unnaturally it is obvious the young actor had little if at all understanding about their importance!
Finally, The Boy From Lebanon suffers from curiously-bad editing which further puts a strain on the film's pacing. Selected scenes where Djilali is shown recalling images from his father's death are unnecessarily enhanced by flashy camera work that would be more suitable for a Hollywood production not a gritty drama about child exploitation (see Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly for a better take on the subject).
How Does the DVD Look?
The film is presented in a good anamorphic transfer preserving the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Properly-converted, with good contrast, and a print free of any debris or scratches this R1 release by PictureThis Ent. serves the film well! Furthermore, even though there is a small amount of edge-enhancement which I must report here overall the print has a very natural look which is unaffected by any intrusive technical deficiencies.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with French-Arabic 2.0 and 5.1 mixes the film sounds well. Dialog is easy to follow and the rear channels get a decent amount of workout without being excessively active. I could not detect any hissing or annoying drop-outs to be reported here. With optional, very well done, English subtitles.
Aside from a gallery of trailers for other releases by PictureThis Ent. there is nothing else to be found here.
Even though The Boy From Lebanon tells a powerful story with plenty of food for thought its execution is rather weak. The acting left me fairly disappointed and so did the editing. As usual the technical presentation by PictureThis Ent. is solid!