Now here is a thing – a film that starts out as a sort of French Mean Streets but ends up in quite different territory. Romain Duris is the young Robert De Niro in question, a thug, we learn early on, with a heart of pure coal and with a surprising gift. He plays the piano like a maestro. Or used to. The film’s narrative tension springs from this internal split – is he going to carry on throwing squatters out onto the streets and smashing up their apartments so the developers can move in? Or is he going to return to the relaxed, elegant world of the piano? The masculine world of the mob or the feminine world of the academy? Money or Art? It’s a remake of James Toback’s ignored 1978 film Fingers, and that time round Harvey Keitel took the lead. So why not just go and get the older film out from Blockbuster (like they’d have it)? Because Duris is a mesmerising presence, because his opposite number – a Chinese pianist who speaks no French (played by the French/Vietnamese actress Linh-Dam Phan) – is too. And because, quite simply, director Jacques Audiard channels the tension so expertly that every scene, exchange and gesture is electrifying.
© Steve Morrissey 2007