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Review: Lots of wheel-spinning in 'Dead in France'

December 13, 2012|By Sheri Linden
  • An image from "Dead in France."
An image from "Dead in France." (Handout )

Trying to retire from his dark trade, a very polite hit man is dogged by a bunch of scheming nut jobs in the imitation noir "Dead in France." Writer-director Kris McManus puts a jokey spin on a cartload of crime-movie conventions and Guy Ritchie cockney types in the low-budget, Cannes-set black comedy.

Beyond broad swipes at obvious targets, the payoff is small.

Brian Levine, who co-wrote the screenplay, provides the calm center of the splatter-happy storm as soft-spoken assassin Charles, a 43-year-old germophobe who wants to lie low, go straight and find a good woman, after completing that One Last Job.

Charles is a cultivated, if socially awkward, Brit. By comparison, all the other Brits who descend on his French Riviera idyll tend to bounce off the walls, as loudly as possible.

His housekeeper (Celia Muir) and her yobbo boyfriend (Darren Bransford, in over-the-top overdrive) use Charles' hillside spread for a sex marathon (played for laughs) and a business scam that instantly spirals out of control.

Rival assassin Clancy (Kate Lousteau) heads over from England, every ounce of her sadistic fury focused on punishing the hit man who dares to leave the game.

In its escalating mayhem and intended stupidity, the movie pulls off a number of visual jokes without generating much in the way of originality. The black-and-white cinematography is just another empty gesture, more affected than expressive, as spoof and homage merrily collide.

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"Dead in France." No MPAA rating. 1 hour, 28 minutes. At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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