I got nothin’. Not even semi-clever. Oh well. Saw the trailer a couple times, and that’s about it.
The story looks like it’s about a complex romance between a woman, who is a race car driver, and a man who is a criminal, and the two seem to get caught up in one of his last jobs.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Adèle Exarchopoulos (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR  and the upcoming THE WHITE CROW ) and Matthias Schoenaerts (RED SPARROW , THE DANISH GIRL , and upcoming films MUSTANG  and RADEGUND ).
Now for the crew. I will likely not be familiar with most of their previous work, but here goes nothing. Credit where credit is due. Directing and co-writing is Michaël R. Roskam, known for THE DROP (2014). Roskam’s partners-in-pen are Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré. Composing the score is Raf Keunen, known for THE DROP. The cinematographer is Nicolas Karakatsanis, known for I, TONYA (2017) and TRIPLE 9 (2016). Finally, the editor is Alain Dessauvage.
Overall, I like Exarchopoulos and Schoenaerts as actors, so I’m sure they won’t be the reason I won’t like this movie that much, but it does look like it’s that story about a criminal trying to reform and gets roped into his “last job.” You know… BABY DRIVER (2017) and exactly how many Fast and Furious movies were all about “one last ride” again? Actually, I think it’s just the seventh, but still. It’s overdone and I’m a little tired of it. Plus, a lot of the trailer is suggesting- and by “suggesting,” I mean downright screaming – that the movie is going to have lots of sex and nudity. It’s French, so maybe it’ll have equal nudity from both men and women, but we shall see. Here’s my final prediction: the story is essentially going to be the relationship starts off with just sex, but they grow to love each other, she convinces him to give up the life of crime, and… eh, one of them dies. She dies. That’s my dice roll.
This is my honest opinion of: RACER AND THE JAILBIRD / LE FIDÈLE
Ever since Gino Vanoirbeek (Matthias Schoenaerts) was a kid, he and his group of friends always pulls cons and illegal jobs, and they were good at it. Nowadays, they job banks belonging to rich jerks. But Gino starts to question his lifestyle when he meets race car driver, Bibi Delhany (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and the two strike up a passionate romance. Though he decides that he wants to put this secretive life behind him, his friends convince him to pull off one last life-threatening job that will set him up for life.
If neither Exarchopolous, nor Schoenaerts were such great actors to rise above this movie, I would have been bored shit-less.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that I don’t think I followed much of the story. Pretty sure that I got the basics down. Dude meets a cute girl and wants to quit his life of crime for her, but I think I missed what “the last job” was supposed to entail. A standard “shit-load of money to set him up for life” kind of deal going on? To be honest, I sort of just winged that when I wrote it in my summary. Was I very far off the mark? Or did I get it so on the nose that I was secretly just bored with it? A strong possibility for both.
You know what, it just hit me. You know what it is? Stakes. Why does Gino want to quit being a criminal? What about this life makes him want to quit? “Because it’s not exciting anymore?” Well, when was the audience going to be shown this revelation? Was this a life he’s never liked to begin with? Again, we’re never shown this information. All we know is that he meets a cute girl and that’s enough. Romantic, to be sure, and if anyone knows how to do romance right, it’d be the French, but this feels pretty forced and not entirely as well-thought out as a movie like this could have been. Also, the romance between the two characters doesn’t feel strong enough to support it. Again, if I weren’t already familiar with Schoenaerts and Exarchopoulos and how good they are as actors, the romance would have been blander than bread. Downright frustrating, even, because I don’t think Bibi was a strong enough character to give up a life of crime. What does Bibi do to make Gino realize that crime isn’t worthwhile anymore? What happens if he loses her from his life? He’ll just go back to doing what he does best and we the audience don’t know why that would be a bad thing, other than “crime is illegal,” which is a pretty adolescent blanket statement. Without that insight on what makes criminality worth putting behind him, the audience has no reason to really care. Hell, there’s even a scene where the two are talking and he says to her that he doesn’t make a habit of trusting people… except her… for some reason. Exactly how long have they been dating? I can’t imagine that long. Certainly not long enough to subvert a lifetime of mistrust, which is warranted in his line of business. Just saying, awesome sex doesn’t equal “trust.”
The same goes for Bibi, for lesser reasons, granted. I kind of hate characters that get themselves involved with secretive romantic interests. Look, if Bibi just liked men of mystery, I can’t say that I wouldn’t be surprised. An accomplished athletic woman doesn’t strike me as the type who would settle for a sweater-vest clad everyman, but what do I know? Either way, the bad boy persona works in short bursts, but Bibi is clearly the type who thinks about settling down and no matter how passionate the sex or romance, there needs to be an acknowledgement that if your significant other is hiding a lot from you, you don’t settle down with them until they’re ready to settle down too. But while Bibi may not know the details of Gino’s life, she doesn’t do enough to make him be more honest, or threaten him with leaving him until much later on when they’re in too deep. Doesn’t this kind of behavior perpetuate the notion that women should be okay with men keeping dangerous and illegal secrets from them with no real ramifications?
More on that relationship not being very strong, the relationship between Gino and Bibi moves way too fast. I honestly didn’t get a lengthy sense of time when they were together, so when Bibi calls Gino her “fiancé” it literally comes out of nowhere, and Gino’s considering marrying her. Hey, maybe this is a cultural thing, but that would explain why France’s divorce rate is more or less on par with America’s, getting married too quickly without a strong foundation to last decades.
Smaller issues include a slower pace from time to time, especially by the ninety minute mark. This movie is two hours, by the way, and you feel that length of time and not in a good way.
But before anyone starts thinking that I hate this movie, I don’t. There are a few things that I did like.
For all the weaknesses of the story itself, the movie does have some pretty good lines. While Gino and Bibi are talking, romanticizing about their future, she says something like, “Would you follow me anywhere?” He responds with, “Depends if you look back or not.” I really liked that exchange and the implications.
There’s some things I can appreciate about certain characters and their reaction to Gino’s air of mystery. Like, I enjoy Bibi’s dad’s reaction to Gino saying that he wants to marry her. He clearly knows that he’s hiding things about himself from her and tells him that he has to either come clean, or stop doing whatever is making him lie. He doesn’t even dislike Gino, which is a breath of fresh air, if you ask me.
And I did appreciate the actual “one last job” scene where the Gino and his crew are robbing those dudes on the highway. It’s pretty reminiscent of HEAT (1995). Masked men, no score (or one that I remember), machine guns, good choreography, and no quick cuts for a solid length of time. Give this movie credit that its one action scene is the most impressive scene in the movie.
Overall, the film is… uninspired. Half of it feels like a heist film that I’ve seen before, and the other half is like a Hallmark channel movie that I’ve definitely seen before. Sure, a few scenes here and there are pretty good, and the two leads are talented enough to work through the dull characters that they have to play, but that’s not enough to save it that much. As a recommendation, if you like stylish French heist films (or this idea intrigues you), then viewer beware. Save it for a rental, but even then, I don’t think you’re missing out on much.
My honest rating for RACER AND THE JAILBIRD / LE FIDÈLE: a weak 3/5
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