You know, I like to laugh just as much as the next guy, but there comes a time when I get really sick of movies that pull back from the tension they’re building with jokes. I’m tired of tongue-in-cheek humor used by insecure filmmakers who are afraid of what people will think if they don’t lighten up. F**k that, if I wanted to laugh I’d rent a comedy. Not everything is supposed to be funny.
“Convoyeur” may have a sense of humor, but it’s not a funny movie. If anything it plays like a spiritual successor to “Taxi Driver”, with a trip through nihilism culminating into a brutal and violent ending.
The story concerns Alex, a middle aged man with no other options left in life except to become a security guard for a company that transports money to and from banks. Not the best job to pick when you’re depressed. He also hasn’t picked the best time to join either. The company is about to be bought out by Americans and everyone, apart from a select few, will probably lose their jobs. Needless to say this is causing tension in an already tense bunch. A gang of thugs has hit the company three times in one year and eight guards have been killed. To say morale is low is an understatement.
The company is called, not inappropriately, “Vigilante”, A word which in French means vigilance and not that other one which is so popular to use when referring to Charles Bronson. However, any similarity is purely intentional.
Alex joins the company and begins work. But what is he doing really? It quickly becomes obvious that he’s investigating the employees. He has a chart with all their names on it; he even has pictures of them. Why? What the hell is he up to? Is he working for the Americans as an internal investigator? Is he working for the gang and planning the most daring robbery of all? Or does he have a more sinister purpose? The movie keeps its cards close to its vest and it would be unfair of me to reveal much more. All I’ll say is that it keeps you guessing.
By the time we get to the bloody last scene, everything has been explained, put in its proper place and then pushed aside, because this isn’t a mystery nor does it attempt to be. The finale functions as a release to everything that’s been building up throughout the movie. Yes, there is a shootout, but it’s not some ejaculatory by-the-numbers ending like you’d see in an American film. It’s the natural conclusion to what’s gone on before; like watching a bomb tick for over an hour. You KNOW it’s going to explode. There is no other alternative.
This isn’t a fun movie, but it’s not supposed to be. Director Nicolas Boukhrief injects a little bit of levity here and there, but he never cranks down the tension, not even for a second. In fact, the only really hysterical scenes are after the credits if you can believe it. They function almost as a “There there, it’s all over now.” for the audience.
Jean Dujardin plays Alex as a man who seems neither tough nor gentle, his face a mask to his true intentions. One minute he seems defeated and weak, in the next there is a violence boiling underneath. It’s a tricky role but he makes you believe the sad man that Alex is. Then, when the fury lights up in his eyes, he makes you believe that too.
It’s been a long time since movies like this have been made, and the
French are on a roll this year. First they made “Haute Tension”, and now this. You know what they say: there are never two without three. I can’t wait to see what comes next.