Synopsis: Gérard (Christophe Malavoy) and Thierry (Francois Cluzet) are business partners who are accused of stealing a safe from a tycoon. The owner of the safe calls the police. The two steal the safe a second time to cover the loss of the money taken in the first burglary…
eyelights: the basic premise. the main cast’s cohesiveness.
eyesores: the underwhelming third act.
It’s amazing how expectations can utterly skew one’s perception. I remember first stumbling on the VHS tape for ‘Association de malfaiteurs’ some twenty years ago. I made the purchase based on the buzz surrounding the picture; in particular, it had been the official film of the comedy festival Juste Pour Rire’s in 1987.
The home video release was even sponsored by the festival. So, naturally, I immediately imagined that it would be one heck of comedy. But I was disappointed when I popped the tape into my VHS player: it had its funny moments, but it wove drama and suspense together with the comedy, leaving me rather unfulfilled in the end.
The plot revolves around four high school friends, Thierry, Gérard, Francis and Daniel, now middle-aged. The first three are rich and successful: two of them are businessmen and one of them a banker. Daniel, however, has not been met with the same success: he keeps getting involved in money-losing schemes. But he continues to dare to dream.
Insatiable pranksters, Thierry and Gérard tease him mercilessly for his business acumen.
After one of their pranks makes him believe that he’s won a fortune, Daniel signs away his mother’s business as collateral in a risky venture with a slimy business acquaintance. Guilt-ridden, the pair attempt to get Daniel out of his predicament but instead wind up running from the law when the other businessman turns the tables on them.
Honestly, I had forgotten just how good ‘Association de malfaiteurs’ really is: the actors are solid (although by no means stellar) and they work well as a unit – you really believe that this lot are long-time friends, the story is plausible, the script is tinged with irony, the direction is sure-handed and the overall result is rather entertaining.
There are only a few things that slightly take the bloom off the rose:
- Although it’s a plausible story, there’s a moment that left me quizzical, if not incredulous: Thierry and Gérard are given the chance to save Daniel by taking his place in this doomed business deal. Even though, rich as they are, they could afford to take the loss, they decide not to. Why? Was it pride? Or did they believe themselves too clever to resort to that? Not sure.
- The pace of the picture is a little strange. During its midsection, while Thierry and Gérard are on the run, there’s a lot of downtime. It makes sense because they were biding their time as they tried to piece together an escape from their legal troubles, but it slowed things down considerably. And since the ending isn’t exactly blistering, it never really picks up.
- In some ways it feels dated. Although the core story can be displaced to any time, there are elements like the ’80s fashion, the bad synth music, and seeing Gérard spending far too much time with his Walkman that remind us that this was, in fact, made a long, long time ago. But this is just a minor gripe, with no significant impact on my appreciation of the picture.
In the end, I enjoyed ‘Association de malfaiteurs’. For some reason, my first impression had left me with this vague notion that it’s an okay, but not especially entertaining, picture. And yet, having now watched it for the third or fourth time, I can safely say that I had a really good time watching the (mis)adventures of this quartet.
Is it an award-winner? No. Is it a good diversion? Absolutely!
Date of viewing: November 20, 2014