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November 25, 2011

Movie Review: 36th Precinct (2004, aka 36 Quai des Orfèvres)

Directed by Olivier Marchal
Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

When the craggy senior officer of the Parisian 36th Precinct announces his retirement, his fellow coppers, a rambunctious lot, throw him a suitably party. Chief among the celebrants is a fat, hairy officer dressed as a belly dancer for the evening's debauched entertainment. When rats are spotted creeping about the shelves of liquor at the dive bar rented out for the festivities, the drunken gendarmes shoot at them with live ammunition.

Buy 36th Precinct Blu-ray or DVD or Watch It Instantly

As we can tell, these peace officers aren't very good at keeping the peace. Frequently working hand-in-hand with local petty thieves and prostitutes to maintain a tenuous grasp on law and order, this bunch isn't above breaking a few eggs to make a crepe.

When the retiring officer issues a challenge – any officer that can apprehend an especially dangerous, active drug gang can assume his lofty position, poor-but-honest Leo Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil) and alcoholic, ruthless Dennis Klein (French film icon Gerard Depardieu) eagerly jump into the fray. In short order, one officer is framed for crimes he didn't commit, the other officer assumes the coveted position, the incarcerated officer's wife is killed in order to keep things on the Q.T. – but justice is served very cold come the film's conclusion.

36th Precinct calls to mind the great policiers of the Seventies and Eighties. As in those American standards, usually starring Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Sylvester Stallone, no one is who they say they are, alliances and rivalries change on a dime, and there a countless breathtaking action set pieces. One of the highlights is where a cornered criminal dashes himself from a window – simultaneously ending his life of crime while saving another human life. On the downside, the film is just a little too predictable. The “good guy” is portrayed by the “bad guy,” the good guy suffers and is later exonerated, and has the bad guy taken out – from the assistance of a few close friends on either side of the law.

Depardieu is his usually hulking, charismatic self, and if some gossip rags are to be believed, he didn't have to research his role as an out-of-control alcoholic too thoroughly. While the film rated a 100 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomato-meter, this writer just couldn't be too engaged by its very shopworn story. Chalk it up to his advancing years, but he's seen it all before. Action movie fans may like it.

The DVD and Blu-Ray of 36th Precinct contains a making-of featurette, an interview with the director, and separate features on both weapon and wardrobe selection.

You can find this and other movies at a discount at Kmart.

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