How many times has a film tried to tell the story of an ex-felon trying to go straight? Well, here is one that does the job and does it well. Even in another language, no less! Manuel Boursinhac’s La Mentale, original title in French, known as The Code is a wonderful telling of a crime story. If you liked The French Connection, Once Upon A Time In America, The Godfather, you’ll enjoy this DVD.
This film is in French with English subtitles, but that does not detract from the success of the storytelling. And it gets better. The actors portray an unusual set of characters: Persians and gypsies living in France and engaging in criminal enterprises. There is a reference to the undercurrent of unrest and racial prejudice that erupted last summer in parts of France’s immigrant community. There’s a rivalry between established French gangsters. There’s a younger brother wanting to be a part of the big boys action and resenting that older brother’s shadow is blocking his advancement. Or so he thinks. And somebody wants to settle a score.
Dris, a Persian, is the main character and it’ss his struggle to come to terms with his old life and his new one that drive the film. He wants to go straight- but, as he yells his wife Lise, “It’s hard!” He doesn’t want to see his younger brother follow in his dark footsteps, but Yanis, his old partner in crime, is hellbent on having him back in the gang. And he pulls every trick at his disposal to achieve this end, including using Dris’ old gypsy girlfriend.
Dris keeps avoiding the bait. He nibbles here and there, but he never takes that full bite that would set the hook. That is until…, well for that you have to watch the movie yourself. Yanis keeps pushing Dris about a big upcoming job, but fails to tell him of some other developments which darken the horizon. And of course, the promised perfect job has a unexpected downside. And then there’s that score, a vendetta, to be settled. Younger brother Mel’s ambitions have placed him in a bad spot and big brother Dris tries to extricate him.
Deceptions, betrayals, vendettas, murder, heists, guns, regret– it’s all here and well played out. A French crime story, true. A great crime story, even more so. Starring Samuel Le Bihan, Samy Naceri. Get this film.