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Review: The Fall of the American Empire

— by RON WILKINSON —

Part satire, part sermon, this lightweight caper yarn is by turns youthfully naïve and viscerally violent. The bad guys are well done, with no holds barred regarding the violence. The good guys are meandering and flawed, discussing philosophy beyond their depth (and ours). There are subtle references to “Pulp Fiction,” “No Country for Old Men,” and the well-worn “found money” caper plot. Stereotypical performances teeter between the intentionally satirically deadpan, and the downright totally lame.

Alexandre Landry does most of the heavy lifting as starving philosophy major Pierre-Paul. Expounding on the world’s shortcomings, his girlfriend can hardly get a word in edgewise to tell him she is dumping him for being a feckless slacker. Funny enough, remembering the hip dialogue that opens Tarantino’s smash “Pulp Fiction” which also had its way with modern pseudo-ethics.

Commencing with his ultra-low-end, minimum wage, underperforming job, Pierre-Paul is faced with his own fork in the ethical road. Sure enough, he does the wrong thing. Resonating with Judge Reinhold’s “Ruthless People” perp, we are kept in the dark about what price he is going to pay for this misjudgment, although the tone of the introductory scenes is hardly noir. Lethal retributions ensue, but they are random and misguided, unlike the all-seeing Shia justice of the real noir underworld.

Keystone Cops shenanigans fill out the remaining screen time as characters parade on and off the screen. Oscar nominated Writer/director Denys Arcand (“The Barbarian Invasions” 2003) does his best to fill the screenplay with colorful people such as Sylvain “The Brain” Bigras. Newly released from prison, he reluctantly agrees to help Pierre-Paul launder a huge amount of ill-gotten loot. Kids, do not try this at home.

Gang leaders, cops, corrupt politicians and various all-too-sexy players enter and exit while the lethally dangerous people and events stay safely in the background. Detectives Carla and Pete (the all-too-sexy pair of Maxim Roy and Louis Morissette) know the score but stop short of doing anything. The original protagonists, inner city blacks, pay the highest price.

There is a good chance the viewer will leave this flick wondering what it is they just saw. The film refuses to take a stand, mocking its own preachiness while recounting the failings of almost everyone. Corrupt international money launderers save the day and crime seems to pay, at least in part. The dodgy money shuffle at the end is good stuff. Over simplified, yes, but still indicative of how crime is, in fact, made to pay, and pay well.

Will there be a lesson learned? Is that the point? Or is the point that the world, and most of its capitalistic enterprises, are so far gone that there is nothing to do but sit back and enjoy. Screened at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival, you will have to see, and judge for yourself.

Rating: 7/10

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