Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2016 5:14 pm 
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A bodyguard in a tense mansion with problems of his own

Alice Winocour, who collaborated on the script of the Oscar-nominated Turkish-language film Mustang, is known for her unusual, finely textured costume debut about the controversial hypno-theripist Jean-Marie Charcot, Augustine, starring Vincent Landon. For her sophomore directorial effort the writer/director swerves into genre territory with a home invasion thriller. She still begins with mental problems, since her protagonist, Vincent, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is a French Special Forces post-Afghan PTSD sufferer with night panic attacks, terrible headaches, and bouts of paranoia. Seeking distraction he gets a job as a security guard with other ex-servicemen at the eponymously named coastal estate "Maryland" of Lebanese financier Whalid (Percy Kemp) whose trophy wife (Diane Kruger) he becomes responsible for guarding while her husband's off on business. Excitement follows.

As Guy Lodge pointed out in his Canes review for Variety, this not only takes Winocour more into mainstream territory than the rather airless, "porcelain" Augustine but has strong export potential given both its exciting action and Schoenaerts' current high international profile. The versatile and hunky young Belgian actor, who just gained UK and US attention with "a triple-shot of English-lingo period romances," Far From the Madding Crowd, Suite francaise and A Little Chaos, here returns to the hard man persona that gained him his rep with Bullhead and Rust and Bone. Schoenaerts has both a sweet, sensitive face, and access to a dangerous edge of animal violence. Disorder likewise delivers its violence with the arthouse éclat of a Cannes debut and a classy European gloss.

Schoenaerts is terrific here, as he always is, and ideally suited for this role. The only shortcoming of the film is that its suspenseful action needs some tightening up. It's not a mistake, perhaps, that forty-five minutes pass before things get really tense and exciting when Vincent is chauffeuring Jessie and her little son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant) to the beach and he senses the car is boing followed. But the action heats up, things are allowed to meander too much at the mansion. And there is a fantasy final shot that's a cheat. There are parts of this film that are just great; unfortunately not all of it. There is no reason why Winocour couldn't have segued into full-blown genre in the last third: it would have strengthened, not weakened, the focus on Vincent's character to do so.

Disordder/Maryland, 101 mins., debuted at Cannes in Un Certain Regard May 2015 and was subsequently shown in over a dozen other prestigious festivals including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and San Francisco. At its 23 Sept. 2015 French release the critical response was uneven (AlloCiné press rating 3.0 averaged from 28 reviews). Screened for this review as part of the Feb. 2016 Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. TRAILER

US theatrical release 12 Aug. 2016 (Metacritic rating 67%).

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