DVD Review - Dead in France

Brian Levine writes and stars in
"Dead in France"
I did like In the Loop (2009) and Four Lions (2010) was okay, but generally I'm not a fan of British humor. The only British series I've ever enjoyed was Mr. Bean and that was based on no dialogue, which worked for me and universally could work for anyone. This movie has a lot of visual gags, which work with no sound, but there's also a lot of dialogue here that for the most part killed the comedy for me. Director, co-writer, cinematographer and editor Kris McManus shoots the entire movie in the south of France in black-and-white or maybe he took away the color in post-production. Recently, the French-made, Oscar-winner The Artist was also in black-and-white but it was chiefly a silent film. I almost wish McManus had gone that extra step and made Dead in France silent too.

Brian A. Levine stars as Charles, an English hitman in France who decides to retire. The movie ostensibly takes place all in one day. He performs two last assassinations early. He goes shopping for a yacht when two English robbers steal two million pounds or Euros in cash from him. Charles has to get it back. Through a series of random circumstances, they all end up back at Charles' house. Meanwhile, a rival female assassin named Clancy travels from London to France to take out Charles and also ends up at the house for a bloody standoff.

The problem is that Levine is barely in the movie. McManus might argue that this is an ensemble comedy, but everything revolves or is dependent on Levine's character, so it would be helpful to have Levine be more of a presence. It could just be that this kind of humor is not my cup of tea, but the dialogue just seems horrible. There are great sight gags, but any time any one speaks, it's awful, particularly from Levine. There are at times that I thought his acting was bad. Again, he could just be going for a style that I don't get, but any time Levine opens his mouth, things fell flat.

There are some important character beats that the filmmakers miss. Celia Muir co-stars as Lisa, a woman that Charles hires to do some work for him. Charles and Lisa have only one scene together at the end very, very briefly but yet we're supposed to believe that the two love each other. It's not enough.

By the end, I wasn't sure what the point was. Dead in France seems to be a parody of hitman movies, but the movie spends so much time with Lisa and her disgusting, punk-rock boyfriend Denny, played by Darren Bransford, that you forget that the central figure is even a hitman. You forget the central figure all together, even as he's on screen.

The sight gags are memorable, but there's a couple that don't work. There's a chase scene for example that isn't exciting in the least and it goes on way too long. Again, it might exist to parody such chase scenes, but Rowan Atkinson who was the star of Mr. Bean did a much better parody of that kind of chase scene recently in Johnny English Reborn (2011).

The only thing Dead in France has going for it is all the blood and gore, particularly the many instances of people getting their heads blown off. This is something the filmmakers could have played because despite all the gory messes, the man responsible for them has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, where essentially he's a cleaning freak. Except for one instance where Charles washes his hands and prepares what he'll wear that day, no other expression of Charles' OCD is shown, especially while he's working.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but contains brutal violence, explicit sexual content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.


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