© Wild Bunch/Central

22 Bullets (L’Immortel)
France 2010

Opening 2 Dec 2010

Directed by: Richard Berry
Writing credits: Eric Assous, Richard Berry
Principal actors: Jean Reno, Gabriella Wright, Marina Foïs, Richard Berry, Kad Merad

Eight masked gunmen shoot a man with 22 bullets; it sounds like overkill but evidently it isn’t. Charly Matteï survives (hence the original title L’Immortel) and recovers rather speedily. The final words (‘la vita’!) of an aria had been his last before he collapses on the floor of a parking garage. This is a Mafia film and naturally he sang along to Italian opera that blasted portentously from his car stereo while he steered towards this fateful destination. That is kitsch and cliché, and too bad there is more to come. Charly (Jean Reno), formerly ‘godfather’ of the Marseille underworld, had sworn off violence and crime to become a caring family man. Now of course he can’t leave it to the police to find out who wants him dead and to avenge the assault. There are some exciting car/motorcycle chases through gorgeous landscape; I had to wonder though how Charly, past midlife and recently comatose, transforms on his bike into an athletic, slighter version of himself. Crawling with difficulty through the barbed wire that surrounds his adversary’s (Kad Merad) compound looks more believable (no stunt?) but is painful to watch after these elegant races.

The script, though loosely based on a real event, is thin and predictable, with brutal and overly drastic violence and failed attempts to be funny. What earns this film two stars anyway are performances by Reno and Merad, camera and score. (Carola A)

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