Friday, June 21, 2024

“PLASTIC GUNS”

THE STORY – During a trip to Denmark, a man is arrested and accused of murdering his wife and three children. Though maintaining his innocence, he remains jailed as police investigate.

THE CAST – Laurent Stocker, Delphine Baril, Charlotte Laemmel, Anthony Paliotti & Gaëtan Peau

THE TEAM – Jean-Christophe Meurisse (Director/Writer) & Amélie Philippe (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes


In the opening fragments of Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s droll “Plastic Guns,” two morticians converse freely in their forensic lab. Desensitized from the sights of their ghoulish tasks, the men discuss the morality behind true-crime exploitation. In a bold directorial move, the opening of Meurisse’s third feature quite literally spells out the film’s thesis through its disconnected vignette. Leaving no room for misinterpretation, the inception of the film’s ruinous suburban hedonism incites a deadly domino-chain of banal desires. Inspired by true events, “Plastic Guns” focuses on the purely archetypal. In brief segments, the audience witnesses the day in the life of Argentinian resident Paul Bernardin (Laurent Stocker), a killer in hiding after senselessly slaughtering his entire family in a lonesome Dijon suburb. Léa (Delphine Baril) & Christine (Charlotte Laemmel), two middle-aged friends, investigate Bernadin’s criminality privately. Meanwhile, a country dancer by the name of Michel Uzès (Gaëtan Peau) is mistaken for Bernadin by the Danish police force. Everything circles back to Zavatta (Anthony Paliotti), an informer who erroneously targets Michel for his familiar appearance. Everyone is interconnected in their web of international mishaps. The cast of exaggerated personalities alleviates the harshness of their failures and sensationalist desires.

Unlike Meurisse’s sophomore endeavor “Bloody Oranges,” “Plastic Guns” never feels gratuitous in its indulgent meditations on violence. The ruthless nature of the film’s on-screen assaults further emphasizes the shock and delirious awe of the character’s plights. “Plastic Guns” is a consistently entertaining indictment when the film specifically highlights the grotesque truths of a reactionary society. The depictions of the police force further articulate the critique, demonstrating the ineptitude and complacency of the interrogative tactics. The humanistic embodiments of the officers & commanders are represented as vile egocentric manipulators working for an inept institution. Employment designation and job titles are prioritized over the livelihood of an innocent suspect — an artist wrongfully tortured and unethically detained.

Violence, both physical and psychological, permeates the subconscious of the seemingly archetypal cast. Meurisse hints at a greater sociological portrait, demonstrating the casualness of the violence as the primary motive. The titular “Plastic Guns” is featured in a scene involving Zavatta’s offspring. The children wield their faux weapons, roleplaying idolized caricatures of a cops & robbers narrative. Their father, a man who abides by the rulebook of the law, realizes his identification blunder. The symbology at play directly interrogates the superficiality of the roleplay, re-created and recontextualized through the juxtaposition of the children’s playtime with the failures of their patriarch.

As a result, every supporting character in “Plastic Guns,” with the exception of the victims of the on-screen violence, causally co-exist in their desensitized bubble of apathy. The neighbors of the Bernadin estate mourn his presence, simplifying the heinous atrocity as a mere glitch in the matrix. The two women who commence their investigation begin to step into the shoes of a dangerous vigilante duo. Blood gushes at the scene of the crime. There are only winners & losers in Meurisse’s parallel world — black & white representatives of a broken society command the silver screen. The same roadhouse of violence endlessly continues within the interconnected web of conspiracy and misinformation.

Meurisse pokes fun at the idolization of the world’s inhumanity by slowly luring the two crime-obsessed women into comedic, albeit painfully cringe-inducing suburban scenarios. Explorations regarding Christine’s psycho-sexual desires for Bernadin’s family homicide are only briefly glossed over. Contrary to the spirit of its profound thesis, “Plastic Guns” often hides from the more sophisticated thematic interrogations at play, favoring conventionality over righteous provocation. The simultaneous resolutions for the four intertwined characters are confoundingly unsatisfying. Meurisse wraps the film without exploring the ramifications of the character’s banality; their repercussions are glossed over for a satisfying Hollywoodized hurrah.

The film is undeniably drenched with potential. However, Meurisse leisurely settles for the surface level. In coincidence with the film’s boorish visual language, “Plastic Guns” amateurishly illuminates its euphoric themes with haphazard execution. The cinematographic approach lacks vision. Meandering coverage occupies nearly every scene, cutting back and forth between monotonous close-ups and desolate masters. Poor intertitle design, utilized in both ironic and unironic contexts, cheapens and needlessly disrespects the viewer’s intelligence. Meurisse’s most extreme on-screen crime is his lack of directorial vigor. His instincts and intentions are admirable, yet “Plastic Guns” sleepwalks through the precise timing of its scandalous chronology.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Meurisse’s signature dark-comedic web of interconnected characters flourish within his intricate study of sensationalist desire.

THE BAD - Poor visual storytelling diminishes the impact of the film’s critical message. On occasion, Meurisse settles for a more conventional and obvious thematic farce, in replacement of his sharp political setups.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Meurisse’s signature dark-comedic web of interconnected characters flourish within his intricate study of sensationalist desire.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Poor visual storytelling diminishes the impact of the film’s critical message. On occasion, Meurisse settles for a more conventional and obvious thematic farce, in replacement of his sharp political setups.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"PLASTIC GUNS"