fri 25/09/2020

Interview: Braquo and A Prophet screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri | reviews, news & interviews

Interview: Braquo and A Prophet screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri

Interview: Braquo and A Prophet screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri

The acclaimed film and TV writer discusses his work on the uncompromising French police drama

The rogue Parisian police quartet in series two of Braquo: left to right Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba), Théo Vachewski (Nicolas Duvauchelle), Eddy Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade), Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher)

Explaining the difference between the first series of the uncompromising French policier Braquo and the second, which he has come on board to write, Abdel Raouf Dafri says his take is “even more violent, even more sarcastic. The line between the good guys and the bad guys is even more fluid”. Dafri knows about bad guys. He wrote Mesrine and A Prophet. He also knows series one of Braquo is a tough act to follow.

Explaining the difference between the first series of the uncompromising French policier Braquo and the second, which he has come on board to write, Abdel Raouf Dafri says his take is “even more violent, even more sarcastic. The line between the good guys and the bad guys is even more fluid”. Dafri knows about bad guys. He wrote Mesrine and A Prophet. He also knows series one of Braquo is a tough act to follow.

With series two premiering on British TV this Sunday, Braquo joins Saturday night’s The Bridge to fill out the weekend’s foreign-language crime TV schedule. The pacing, shocks and tonal shading of the Danish/Swedish production are different to Braquo, but both are essential. Braquo is the angrier, out-of-gear, no-brakes cousin to its Gallic counterpart Spiral. Captain Laure Berthaud would lose control in Spiral, but she could just about get back on track. In Braquo, Jean-Hugues Anglade‘s Eddy Caplan is out of control. As one transgression leads to another and another, he and his team are forever chasing their tails. This spiral is downward.

Braquo series one DVDThe first series of Braquo followed Caplan’s team from the Hauts-de-Seine police department in the Paris suburbs. It is issued on DVD on Monday. The creation of former flic Oliver Marchal, it followed his 2004 film 36 Quai des Orfèvres. He’d debuted in cinemas in 1999 with A Good Cop (Un Bon Flic). As with his films, the hyper-real Braquo – French slang for heist – is informed by real police experience, like HBO's The Wire. But if real French police are anything like this, God help Paris and its citizens.

In series one, Caplan, Roxane Delgado (Karole Rocher), Walter Morlighem (Joseph Malerba) and Théo Vachewski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) unite to avenge the treatment of their colleague Max, who’s been hauled in by the brass to explain why he stabbed a suspect in the eye and also apparently forced a ruler up his back passage during an integration. The suspect was wearing only his underpants. Max finds a unique way to avoid facing the music - plot and action spoilers are avoided here. The quartet decide to snatch the suspect from hospital to get him to absolve Max. That goes wrong – badly wrong – and the tail chasing begins. Army commando style raids on kidnapped cops, shadowy intrigue from the tops levels of the police, beatings, conspiracies, drugs, criminals from eastern Europe, murder and internal investigators with no eyes on protocol pepper Braquo. The quartet have dysfunctional home lives. It’s no wonder there's a fully functioning bar with draft beer (high-strength Leffe) in their police station. There are no good guys. It’s moreish, incredible stuff.

Braquo Abdel Raouf DafriDafri (pictured left) has an equally incredible track record with Mesrine and A Prophet. Him coming on board for series two is a coup. He says he wanted to work on Braquo because “first of all I am a good friend of Olivier Marchal. Also, the reason I was interested in Braquo is that it is original, intelligent television. For season one, the characters were created by the original writers. I felt watching the first season I understood their psyche and that there were parts of their psyche, parts of their make up, which remained to be developed. I’ve also been able to create new characters, and they are going to be faced with the original characters”.

“New rules for season two,” is how he characterises it. “In season one Caplan wasn't doing proper police work, but he was protected by the badge. But in season two he doesn’t have the badge. What is there is still is the sense of friendship amongst the characters. I am in the process of writing season three and I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven't seen season two. But I can say there is quite a shock at the end of season two”.

Dafri reveals he favours working in television over cinema “because in a series you have up to eight hours, so I can really develop the characters. But the restriction in France is that only Canal+ will show something like this. HBO is a dream for me, a big dream, it’s like paradise. Boardwalk Empire is the best series ever made. Steve Buscemi, what an actor. Magnifique. Wow, the talent. You in England, you have the BBC, Luther, Torn, Inside Men, Top Boy. You have the good shows. The Shadow Line, a very very good show produced and written by one man.”

Would he work for HBO? “I would have to learn English first”. No worries there - his English is fine.

Asked whether he would step away from the crime stories that have defined him so far, he surprisingly says that “one day I would like to make something like When Harry Met Sally. I love The Princess Bride. There are lots of films that deal with the lighter side of things. I would like to have a wider palette, but I work with what I know, the criminal mind. One day I’d hope to have the same scope and range as Martin Scorsese, who does not just work with the criminal mind. But at the moment, that's just the way it is."

Returning to Braquo and its depiction of a city that is all underbelly, he laughs. “Do not be put off it by it,” he declares. “Paris is still somewhere you can live."

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

  • Series one of Braquo is released on DVD on 30 April
  • Series two of Braquo debuts on FX from 29 April

Watch the French traller for season two of Braquo

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