Jonathan and Howard Ford, the brothers who made The Dead and The Dead 2 India, have both struck out solo and made gruelling thrillers which featured as FrightFest selections … Howard with the chase movie Never Let Go and Jonathan with this French-set siege/revenge movie.
Retired Americans Bernard (Russell Floyd) and Helen (Lisa Eichhorn) inherit a house in the French countryside from a war buddy of Bernard’s father – the will ominously insists they live in the place for a year before they can sell it or come into a sum of money also left them, an interesting thread which is oddly dropped. It’s not clear whether the dead man is punishing the couple or has chosen them because he guesses Bernard will eventually man up and avenge him – and there’s a distracting backstory about a wartime event when Bernard’s father and his pal intervened to prevent Nazis massacring the locals. However, the current young generation of French kids are virulently antisocial and especially anti-outsider … passing the time dropping bricks off flyovers onto car windscreens, harassing old people to the point of causing strokes, setting fire to houses and hassling folk in the street. A gang of louts were partially (maybe wholly) responsible for the previous homeowner’s death and now begin a campaign of petty vandalism and assault, compounded by sneering insults and (of course) recording all their petty cruelties on their phones (another plot element that goes nowhere). Typically for a vigilante movie, the cops – when they show up – bust Bernard for threatening the hoodies with a spade but leave the kids alone to continue the campaign of pointless terror. Jean-Baptiste (Fred Adenis), the chief flic, is especially useless, to the point of being in cahoots with the kids.
Floyd, from The Bill, and Eichhorn, too little seen since her great turn in Cutter’s Way (though also in Never Let Go), are solid as the sympathetic retirees – and credibly slow to pick up on how out of whack things are in this ‘hood. Modern audiences may find them initially infuriating, but that’s part of the point. The first half of the film lays it on a bit thick with other incidental victims of the feral,giggling kids – so much more hateful than the menaces of Ils/They because we get to know them a bit, but not quite on a par with the junior psycho of Eden Lake. Then, as Helen is knocked down in the garden and pissed on by a youth, the film changes tack as Bernard fights back, and uses that spade to effect some ultra-gory, video-nasty level righteous revenge. There’s a bit of agonising about it, but with Jean-Baptiste still abetting the villains – when he stumbles over mangled corpses, he blurts ‘that’s my nephew’ – the stage is set for an old-fashioned orgy of Straw Dogs/Death Wish-style splattery revenge (there was even a geriatric version in 1979, Boardwalk) that at least offers some emotional catharsis even if the straining for deeper significance is on the half-hearted side.