36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004)


Director: Olivier Marchal .
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, André Dussollier, Francis Renaud . France. 1h 51m.

I‘ve not covered a lot of French Cinema on my blog to date and I find this distressing and I’ll have to break this pattern as I watch a lot of French films, but for me some of the outstanding works of modern times are these slick and intelligent crime thrillers. For me this film is an excellent example of how to pay homage to a great director and film without pissing away the energy of a superb story and idea.

Set in the 36 district and on the night of a retirement party the film begins with many endings, and a lone scream from a prison yard, a farewell to an aged and beloved officer.  The group of joyous police officers celebrate and depart, in the early hours of the morning a violent gang perform a precise and detailed attacked on an armed unit and steal a huge amount of cash, back at HQ the hungover officers are put to the task of capturing this gang. What develops is both intriguing and shocking but the police force is split between two leading officers, Leo Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil) a compassionate and easygoing officer who’s team are dedicated to him. In stark contrast Klein (Gérard Depardieu) is an ambitious alcoholic asshole with no consideration for others and is only interested in promotion, but between them they are expected to work together, and as the commissioner is about to retire one of these men is in line to get his job so a fierce competition arises but the aggressor, Klein is more ruthless than the hardworking Vrinks. With this internal war waging within the police force they somehow do manage to pin down the gang until Klein manages to mess things up in his own dramatic manner and the officer who was enjoying his retirement party only a few days before gets killed. In the meantime Leo gets involved in an assassination due to his kind and almost naive nature, he is arrested, Klein gets promoted but the past soon catches up with him as the war rages on.


Every second of this gritty drama is dripping with style, and despite its harsh nature it’s extremely emotive. Olive Marchal admittedly was so impressed by LA Takedown and HEAT, I have to admit that the original 1990’s film is perfect but his attempt to outdo HEAT has produced a much stronger and viable film. The characters are deep and is a bold reminder of how great Gerard can be, using his large frame and rough face to impose himself on the screen.

What sometimes angers me about gritty crime films is they lose the drama and meltdown into a heavy action packed movie. 36 successfully manages to spin a detailed and gripping yarn while keeping things emotive. It’s interesting to see both central characters are consistent with their methods at work and with their families, Klein grunts at his wife and hangs out at the titty bar, whereas Vrinks is a great father, conscientious leader and great friend, it really pays off as his team are loyal and this leads to one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie. At the funeral of one of the officers, caused by a major drunken blunder by Klein, there is a public revolt when they all turn their backs on their commissioner, backed by the huge mourning crowds and the funeral march it’s darkly haunting with a superb performance from Francis Renaud.

The film remains stylish, with the odd bout of brutality and violence but doesn’t become as seedy as Paris Lockdown (2007), but does offer an amazing retelling of a classic cop story.




Rating 10/10

RParis Lockdown (2007) , Mr 73 – The Last Deadly Mission (2008), Infernal Affairs (2002)
L – Selected French Cinema, A-Z of French Cinema, French Crime Films, Crime Films, A-Z of Crime Films,  Interesting Remakes.
A –  When a remake is better than the original!? Wait ..No Just a good Remake.
5S – Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu,  Francis Renaud

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