DVD Review - Outside the Law

Jamel Debbouze (left), Sami Bouajila (middle) &
Roschdy Zem in "Outside the Law"
Rachid Bouchareb was nominated for an Oscar for Days of Glory (2006). He was nominated again for his follow-up film Outside the Law (2010), which is somewhat of a sequel. Days of Glory was about World War II, as told from the perspective of Algerian men. Outside the Law picks up from the end of that war in 1945 and tells the story of three Algerian brothers, as they continue to fight and struggle for their country's independence, which occurs in 1962.

Algeria is the second-largest country in Africa. It's located in the northwest along the Mediterranean coast. France invaded Algeria in the early 19th century and started colonizing it. Muslims who have a 1000-year history in Algeria have always fought back, but it wasn't until after WWII that the FLN or the National Liberation Front, was formed.

The FLN was the group that eventually gained or seized power in Algeria. Bouchareb's film gives a glimpse at how the FLN did so. Bouchareb and his team create a very detailed historical epic that's engrossing and that has a decent level of action. Some critics have noted the historical inaccuracies but I went into it understanding that this film is biased toward the FLN and these specific Algerians.

Jamel Debbouze plays Saïd, the youngest of three brothers living in Sétif in northern Algeria. Sami Bouajila plays his older brother, Abdelkader, and, Roschdy Zem plays the eldest of the siblings named Messaoud. While Messaoud is sent to fight in the Indochina war and Abdelkader is sent to prison for political differences, Saïd is left on the streets. Saïd becomes a boxing promoter but violence breaks out and Saïd is a witness to the massacre in Sétif on V-E Day. This starts him down a path of revenge and crime.

Saïd flees with his mother to Paris. Yet, the Paris we see isn't the beautiful and romantic city often depicted. This isn't Paris je'taime. Saïd and his mother take refuge in a shanty town where a lot of poor and desperate people have retreated. Saïd soon gets pulled into some shady business. When his two brothers return and meet up with Saïd in this shanty town, they too get involved with some shady business.

Abdelkader is in fact recruited in prison to help with the FLN movement. He's tasked to recruit more and really spread the word of FLN. Abdelkader starts by recruiting his brother Messaoud. At first, the grievances of the FLN seem justified and its rebellion against the government seem understandable, but that quickly stops when the brothers basically become assassins.

It becomes morally ambiguous. The brothers fight for their country's freedom, but the way they go about is just as horrible as the tactics of the people they're against. The actors and filmmakers do a great job, however, of engaging us with these characters and keeping us with them, but, being that this film takes place mostly outside of Algeria, there is a bit of a disconnect.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but Recommended for Adults.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 18 mins.


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