Is Louis Leterrier the right man for the job to tackle Fast X? The question is valid since his films haven’t been on the verge of being outstanding or have certain stylistic flourishes that distinguish him from other blockbuster filmmakers. Instead, he’s a decent cut-and-paste director who kowtows to any studio’s demands (i.e., the MCU with The Incredible Hulk) and gets his paycheck. I can’t help but respect that, but there isn’t any film he made that was particularly enthralling to watch. Larry Fong’s impeccable lens made Now You See Me a must-see, but it wouldn’t have worked had he not been the cinematographer.
The Takedown (Loin du périph), a sequel to David Charhon’s On the Other Side of the Tracks (De l’autre côté du périph), is one of Leterrier’s most visually interesting films. It seems like this was his audition tape for Fast X, at least for the chase scenes. His cameras zip up and down in ultra-creative ways, with the director of photography Thomas Hardmeier having gone to the Michael Bay School of Drone Cinematography through a go-kart chase scene. The [drone] camera flies in so many weird angles that you can’t help but admire the pure craftsmanship and visual creativity. And as an action film, Leterrier’s visual direction makes for a better looking and kinetic film than its 2012 predecessor, which contained frankly dull action sequences.
Even bouts of exposition are delivered in hyper-stylized ways, which adds to our investment in François Monge (Laurent Lafitte) and Ousmane Diakité (Omar Sy)’s on-screen reunion. One scene in particular in which Diakité and detective Alice (Izïa) recap a grisly murder that sets the stage for what’s to come is so visually striking that it may very well sell you on the mere idea that Leterrier’s Fast X will be a spectacle. On the contrary, in The Takedown, Leterrier treats every scene as a huge spectacle, making our appreciation of the film’s visual craftsmanship feel more tangible than if the filmmaker had used his familiar cut-and-paste approach. Aside from Now, You See Me (thanks, Larry Fong), The Takedown feels like Leterrier’s only movie where you can feel a distinctive authorial touch instead of a corporate one, which once again proves that studios should let directors go to work and trust their vision on the source material dammit!
The stars of the picture, Lafitte and Sy, have impeccable chemistry together. They make some of the more cringe-worthy comedic sequences feel funny and have a terrific on-screen buddy relationship. One of them is the more serious “by the book” detective, while the other likes to make jokes and have a carefree style. They learn to love each other more in this installment than in the first one, where they would bicker at one another and have little synergy going. That’s not to say that there aren’t any classic buddy cop bickering bits, but their comedy feels more restrained as they learn to appreciate one another. And it’s much better this way because Leterrier can focus on the film’s true star, which is the spectacle.
Because the plot of the film doesn’t make much sense, even if it oh-so-desperately tries to draw a parallel on the rise of the French alt-right, with the main villain of the movie, Mayor Brunner (Dimitri Storoge), being a near-perfect caricature of polemist and former Presidential Candidate Éric Zemmour. Leterrier and the stars had tried to spin it to jab at what was going on with the Trump administration since Zemmour wasn’t running when they made the film. But feels more timely since Brunner’s populist message reaches the same levels as what Zemmour said during the campaign. It’s almost crazy to think that “art” (if you can call it that) imitates life that way. Still, it’s a shame that the movie never deepens the rationale for why Mayor Brunner has such a strong following and, most importantly, why are people following this despot? It haphazardly tries to draw another parallel between fascists and their followers, but it’s too surface-level (and unnecessary) for us to care about the antagonists. A twist during the climax comes out of nowhere and makes absolutely no sense, which is due, in part, to the film’s screenwriting issues. It’s too busy focusing on the sheer spectacle that it forgets to have a good antagonist to make the spectacle feel more cathartic and enveloping.
But no matter, since the spectacle is already good enough to begin with. Sy and Lafitte elevate some truly cringe-worthy humor to fun and exciting heights as the boisterous cop duo we’ve grown to love in the first film flesh out their friendship and save the day yet again. It may not be the best movie of the year, but it’s undoubtedly a fun time, especially if you like creative action set pieces, and it makes the case that Louis Leterrier will do an excellent job with Fast X. Bring it on.
Director: Louis Leterrier
Stars: Omar Sy, Laurent Lafitte, Izïa, and Dimitri Storoge
Runtime: 121 minutes