By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
This foreign film nominee by previously recognized French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb covers some territory that is fairly unfamiliar to most moviemakers.Algeria’s war for independence was pretty much Frances’s Vietnam, with the added mindfuck of domestic terrorism/guerrilla operations thrown in.No wonder everyone’s still a little touchy on the subject.
Outside the Law traces the event through the eyes of three brothers all caught up in the guerilla operations of the FLN liberation front.Said is a small-time pimp and boxing promoter with big ambitions.Messaoub fought in France’s other Vietnam, Indochina.
Also known as… Vietnam
He’s trained and prepared to kill for the resistance, but it begins to take a toll.The third brother, Abdelkader, on the other hand is a bespectacled intellectual whose revolutionary theory appears to have diminished his humanity.Their movement begins a spiral of violence that prompts the French secret police to form an unofficial terrorist organization of their own, The Red Hand.
Bouchareb picks up with this one seemingly right after his previous nominee Days of Glory, and it’s even more polished and well-shot.The main actors are also familiar from that film, and turn in excellent performances humanizing roles that were written as slight stereotypes.
There is plenty of action to go around and it’s as good as anything you’d see in much more expensive movies.I also really liked the selective coloration of stock and black and white footage, which makes for some stunning shots.
I do have to give a drink to the heavy-handedness and jingoistic attitude towards the points made in this film.It begins with the boys’ family being tearily dispossessed of their land and continues into the Setif massacre, where the French just wade into a crowd of protestors and start shooting.It’s not that I’m calling this completely inaccurate, but it’s hard to recommend this as history with its lack of any French point of view.
Bouchareb borrows heavily from gangster flicks like The Godfather and The Untouchables in the structure of both his story and his action sequences.This is far from a bad thing, at least until it starts looking more like repetition than homage.If you don’t see the car-bomb coming from a mile away, you have a fairly sizeable hole in your movie-watching experience.
If this was made with recognizable actors and without subtitles, America would be all over it.Don’t limit yourself and ignore the over-directing, because it’s still a pretty good watch.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone is assassinated
Take a Drink: for each French atrocity
Drink a Shot: each time the mother disowns someone