Rated R · 154 minutes · 2009

Crime drama
Imagine Goodfellas’ Henry Hill navigating the inmate politics at a French prison, and you’ve got the latest from filmmaker Jacques Audiard, a deserving Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. This stylish, Scorsese-ish crime saga chronicles the gangland ascension of Malik (newcomer Tahar Rahim, in a stunningly controlled performance), an illiterate street teen who falls under the protection of a cruel Corsican crime boss (Niels Arestrup) after completing a bloody task. A “dirty Arab” to the Corsican thugs and a mob lapdog in the eyes of the Muslim brotherhood, the astute Malik takes the prison’s underestimation of him and methodically sharpens it into a figurative shiv, waiting to strike. Audiard wisely refrains from being overtly showy, allowing urgent handheld camerawork to capture the tense silence and blistering violence. The seemingly out-of-place surrealism involving a ghost will grow on you, and that nifty montage of Malik’s rise set to Nas’ “Bridging the Gap” takes an abused cinematic device and makes it bracingly fresh.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Producer: Martine Cassinelli
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi, Reda Kateb, Antoine Basler, Gilles Cohen, Pascal Henault, Foued Nassah and Jean-Emmanuel Pagni


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