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Film Notes

FrightFest review – Night Fare

Night Farenight fare

NB: this review discusses some – but not all – of the film’s plot developments.

A Paris-set all-through-the-night thriller which at first pits two mismatched friends against a seemingly unmotivated killer – but unusually spends the last reel explaining exactly why the muscular, inexpressive taxi driver (Jess Liaudin) does what he does and fills in centuries of history with anime-style woodcuts and a well-thought-out mythology that works a lot better than the daft detours of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers or  Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in giving a cult context to the surprisingly moralistic urban predator.

Two years after he upped and left Paris for reasons he didn’t share with his girlfriend Ludivine (Fanny Valette), Mancunian Chris (Jonathan Howard) returns to the city to find that Ludivine is now with her former best friend, party guy/drug dealer/all-round bad influence Luc (Jonathan Demurger).  Hoping to reconcile with Ludivine, Chris is annoyed to be dragged to several  parties by Luc … late at night, on practically deserted streets, Chris and Luc get into a cab which Luc directs to yet another party, only for Luc (who has a wad of cash on him) to duck out of paying the fare and drag the exasperated Chris up stairs and through walkways to get away from the silent cabbie.  The driver keeps the meter running, and the ticking-over of the numbers punctuates his relentless pursuit of the petty crims – who try to hide behind a roomful of more hardened crooks and then a circle of cops, only for the driver to slash and thump and stab his way through the bodies to keep up the game of tag.   At one point, he even grabs Chris’s leg and then lets go, extending the game.  Hints are dropped about the driver’s near-supernatural status and his strange priorities – a guard dog wisely hesitates when sicced on him, and he holds back the killing blow when he spots the one honest flic in a crew of corrupt cops.  Of course, Ludivine is brought into it – kidnapped and trussed in an abandoned factory, with Chris instantly obliged to attempt a rescue and Luc tempted to make a run for freedom and leave her to the driver’s mercies.

Director Julien Seri (of the French mixed martial arts movie Scorpion) keeps the character business bubbling – eventually, a flashback explains why Chris quit town and changed his ways – and there’s as much tension from the way Luc keeps making bad decisions that get his friends into trouble or danger as there is in the familiar business of the human terminator who keeps coming at an even pace despite his quarry’s desperate attempts at escape.  It has a great look, exploring striplit concrete spaces well away from the usual Paris film locations, and the players express their characters through physical presence and mannerism as much as in the dialogue – though it’s a mystery why the saintly, angelic heroine has hooked up with either of the guys in her life.  Liaudin, a fighter who had bits in The Wrestler and The Sweeney, does a couple of impressive take-out-everybody-in-the-room-with-minimal-effort sequences but is almost as imposing in scenes in which he simply grips the steering wheel of his cab or stands menacingly in the middle-distance.

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