By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
European crime films often feel like the bread and butter of the arthouse and limited release circuit, and they’ve been the jumping off point for many a Hollywood career.
Matthias Schoenaerts= Da Shit.
The Ardennes plays like another calling-card film, as writer and star Jeroen Perceval plays one of a pair of house-robbing brothers with Kevin Janssens, who is sent to prison for the stunning maximum sentence of… 7 years… despite an apparently violent denouement to one robbery. When he gets out, it turns out Perceval has been getting awful familiar with his old squeeze (Veerle Baetens), and of course a return to the life always beckons.
Director Robin Pront conjures up some unique visual ideas, never better than the opening shot of a masked man emerging out a pool in slow motion, his wettened mask making his features uncanny.
When they do go for action, it’s well-staged and executed, including an inventively staged carwash fistfight, and when the film actually gets to the Ardennes Forest and a rendezvous with Janssens’s shady prison buddies, everything intensifies nicely.
All around, this is an appropriately rough-looking cast, the kind you’d cross the street to avoid on craggy bad-intentioned mien alone. Jan Bijvoet as the principal prison buddy is always a welcome presence as well, adding a wildcard charisma that spices things up.
A face made for character acting.
There’s also a well-deployed electronic soundtrack from Hendrik Willemyns that seems to come part and parcel with this type of film, and I sure don’t mind.
Unfortunately, stylistically the rest of the film never quite reaches the heights of that opening scene. For too much of the film, Pront deploys the same boring blue filter that all of these Euro crime dramas and most crime television does.
The Good Wife’s parody was pretty much on point. This, however, is Low Winter Sun, which is practically the same thing.
Outside of one sick twist at the end, the plot doesn’t do anything narratively different than what you’d expect. One brother’s a bad egg, who’s going to pull the other back into that life of crime, aided by a few narrative turns of bad luck. Obviously the one brother has gotten together with the other’s girlfriend, which will come to a head, and it will all end very badly.
I wrote that all midway through the second act, btw
The Ardennes may be a fairly run of the mill European crime drama, but as these things go, it sure beats the likely American remake it’ll spawn in five years or so.
The Ardennes (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Janssens acts a prick
Take a Drink: for references to prison life
Take a Drink: for that old ultraviolence
Take a Drink: for variations of “Fuck”. Seems it’s popular everywhere!
Do a Shot: for ostriches
Do a Shot: Jean Claude Van Damme arguments!