Tahar Rahim once more demonstrates his talent, this time in Audiard’s French-racial-prison-gangster movie. A young criminal, Malik, has been admitted for the first time to an adult prison. A tough guy on the streets, the 19 year old cowers as he enters his new environment surrounded by hardened criminals and established gangsters. Malik is immediately picked out by César – the head mafia man of the prison who essentially controls all the guards – to become his chosen assailant to murder a fellow prisoner on his hit-list.
Having only been arrested for violence, Malik has a crisis of conscience as to whether he will succumb to César or submit to the death sentence that will be imposed on him if he doesn’t kill. The method he must employ to murder will have you recoiling in disgust as he practices in the mirror. ‘Malik’s’ proceeding rise throughout the ranks inspires fear and suspicion in César, who rightly believes he is attempting to overthrow him. A change in French law leaves César exposed as little more than a paranoid and fearful old man as the foundations of his prison empire crumble beneath him. However, this is definitely a movie for the patient, as it peters out towards the end and whilst beautifully executed, I couldn’t help but feel as though it could have been shorter. A movie for philosophers and lovers of French and mafia films.