THE CODE (2002, LA MENTALE) has actors speaking their natural
French but whose dialog was dubbed in English. There are also
English subtitles, that consistently differ from the dubbed English.
The target market is obviously that spoken about by the new elected
French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, (former Minister of the
Interior), who won the favor of many over his promises to cope with
the multicultural pressures that France faces today, in large part
centered in the hyper-populated suburbs of Paris.
The movie tells the story of second generation Maghrebs, who
consider blue collar jobs and the 9 to 5 work routine dishonorable,
preferring instead, to be their own bosses, viewing the world as
seen in some regions 800 years ago, carrying out hijackings of 18
wheeler TIR trucks carrying commodities and reselling them, or
looting armored bank vans carrying loads of cash, etc. Thus, actors
Samy Naceri and Samuel Le Bihan play the roles of gangsters, running
their own operations, ranging form narco-trafficking, import to
dealing in the street with their own city blocks in the city to
protection rackets, high end car thefts, etc. This is confirmed
when we hear "It's the dough that makes the man!"
The script puts a lot of effort in underlining the personal lives of
the mobsters, showing a birthday celebration, a woman mulling over
her rocky relationship and pregnancy, coping with infidelity, etc.
In this regards, a night club is the center of ultimate joy when
friends gather, perhaps juvenile as an outlook. While there are many
high-five human moments, party scenes, this movie is ultra-violent,
with a number of gun fire-fights, spontaneous murders, and
vocabulary typical of the underworld.
An ex-con tries to start a new life, stemming from his penal system
experience and affection for a woman of outside his religious faith
(Maometanism) and tribe (gypsy, Maghreb, etc.) This causes tensions
among former partners in crime and by ex-girlfriend, who have a lot
to stand losing in letting the man step outside the clan.
The action scenes are well done, with the balaclavas and machine
guns, packed clips, both indoors and outdoors, showing plenty of
realism, by the well understood implications of the behavior shown,
such as bleakness, violence, egomaniac behavior seen in the gang,
and the overall lack of principles such that, it's a race to the
bottom to see who has less character and principles, when there's a
confrontation, who is the easiest on the trigger.
Some scenes could have been done a lot better, such as the
spontaneous physical love scenes or embraces that come about without
context, that are non-sequitur. The complete lack of law enforcement
is also dumbfounding.
Some bizarre moments are shown, such as a woman pulling a stash of
jewelry from her underpants.
The cultural life is underlined, referencing cuscus, Maometanism for
the deceased at the cemetary, the prayer when confronted with
imminent danger, the ghetto that they belong to, for friends,
companionship and work.
The DVD offers a good quasi-widescreen presentation, with very good
5.1 sound, surprisingly, considering the dubbed English dialog.
The soundtrack is very good and professional, as well, ranging from
acoustic, gypsy-style numbers, to very low-profile music that
doesn't distract from the story.