Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Nest

2002, France, directed by Florent-Emilio Siri (original title: Nid de guêpes)

Although it's jam-packed full of allusions to other films, The Nest still manages to feel surprisingly fresh, dispensing with the often hackneyed backstories with which action characters are burdened in favour of delivering elaborately choreographed thrills and spills with considerable style (director Florent-Emilio Siri showed similar technical mastery in his American debut, Hostage). Like Hostage, the film's set-up is complex, with intersecting stories, but Siri sketches the details in efficiently; even though the plot depends on a preposterous coincidence, the action is so breakneck that there's no pause for reflection on this at the time. There are obvious reference points in American films like Assault on Precinct 13 and Die Hard, as well as to such Hong Kong actioners as Hard-Boiled (like that film, it does occasionally beggar belief that a small war could take place in an urban location without anyone noticing), although the first 20 minutes are a homage to the masterful French crime flick Du rififi chez les hommes, with its famously silent heist sequence. While it might seem to be something of a bastard child, there's still a definitely local feel to events, with allusions to crimes in the Balkans and the clever use of a Bastille Day background. Though it is, in the end, slick commercial fare, Hollywood could learn a thing or two from this kind of lean performance.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States