wed 24/04/2024

Polisse | reviews, news & interviews



French child protection cops exhibit infantile behaviour

The CPU squad prepare for another punishing day of melodramatic grandstanding

Hailed in some quarters for its gruelling realism in the depiction of the work of the Paris-based Child Protection Unit (the French call it La Brigade de Protection des Mineurs), Polisse is another French cop drama but with tiresome pretensions of social concern plastered on top.

Actor/writer/co-director Maïwenn spent time embedded with the real-life mineurs-protecting cops and was able to observe ongoing cases, but though these have given her plenty of horrific or hair-raising raw material, the finished film fails to achieve convincing documentary weight, and doesn't feel plausible as drama either.

Its two-hours-plus running time is packed with cases of child abuse, child prostitution, child poverty, child rape and child abduction, with a particularly unpleasant scene featuring a dead baby for good measure, but as the narrative grinds on and on, it begins to feel like leafing through a telephone directory. You wonder what kind of sordid ghastliness stretches out ahead under L, N or W. All this is counterpointed by the personal lives of the CPU officers as they go through their own emotional or marital traumas, which are exacerbated (as we're continually and ham-fistedly reminded) by the unique pressures of their job.

Ironically, Maïwenn may have blundered by picking too strong a cast. It's peppered with top names from French cinema and TV, not least Nicolas Duvauchelle as Mathieu and Karole Rocher as Chrys, who are also stars of gritty, grim etc French cop series Braquo. Rapper Joeystarr hogs plenty of the limelight as Fred, who lives in a state of permanent emotional combustion. The team's relationships with each other and with members of their "clientele" are spattered with spectacular grandstanding outbursts of rage and aggression. With so many ambitious actors queueing up to seize their set-piece moments, you could hardly expect Polisse's fabric to hang together coherently, and you duly end up with an infuriating parade of egomania, bombast, self-pity and all-round thespian incontinence.

Nor is the drama rendered any more compelling by Maïwenn herself taking the role of Melissa, a timid photographer assigned to document the CPU's work by the Ministry of the Interior. Melissa doesn't carry any of the usual paraphernalia that photographers tend to lug around with them, and poses about with a Leica camera which seems to have an amazing ability to take photos in the dark (Maïwenn's Leica commercial, pictured above). After being bawled out by Fred for being insensitive and voyeuristic, she then starts having an absurdly unconvincing affair with him.

About the only thing which does ring true is the contempt which French cops from sexier units (drug squad, flying squad etc) have for the CPU, with the latter humiliatingly relegated to also-ran status for the climactic set piece in a shopping mall. Among numerous cliches pinched from better cop thrillers, there are regular interventions from the squad's bureaucratic boss, who makes them do things they don't like, such as making special allowances for child abusers with high political connections (cue another petulant furniture-smashing outburst from Fred). He should have just disbanded the unit on the spot and washed his hands of the lot of them.

Watch trailer for Polisse




You end up with an infuriating parade of egomania, bombast, self-pity and all-round thespian incontinence


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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