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FILMS Belgium

Gangsta: Gangsters, Flemish-style

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- Deadly duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah deliver a super-energetic comedy, whose formal excesses echo the "bigger than life" escapades of its heroes

Gangsta: Gangsters, Flemish-style

After Black [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fal…
interview: Martha Canga Antonio
film profile
]
and Image [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, two sombre films that demonstrated the duo’s formal mastery, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are back, but this time with a different tone to their new film, Gangsta [+see also:
trailer
interview: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fal…
interview: Matteo Simoni
film profile
]
, an incredibly kooky comedy, in which some fairly amateur gangsters clash against a background of conflict with the Colombian mafia.

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Antwerp, the Kiel district. Adamo, twenty, stylishly wanders the streets of HLM with his crew, Badia, Younès and Volt. Making money from the odd job here and there, the foursome has a dream: to become Tony Montana, the legendary gangster. So, when an opportunity arises to work for Orlando, the local drug dealer, they jump at the chance – even if it's means getting in slightly over their heads. Especially since Orlando doesn’t exactly work for himself, and his Colombian sponsors don’t respond favourably to any powder going missing - or getting lost in the bottomless pockets of corrupt cops.

Adamo and his crew dive headfirst into a career that is way beyond them, as if the port of Antwerp were the setting for a life-size video game, where you always get a second chance. The directors play on this attitude by adopting a very marked aesthetic, which is largely inspired by video games, from the presentation of the characters, to trickery with neon and stroboscope lighting, which flashes throughout the film. Life becomes a (deadly) fight – from the kick-boxing rings where Badia, the gang's heroine, competes, to the dark alleys of the port of Antwerp, where drugs are trafficked. The soundtrack is just the same, full of big blows, whipping the audience into a frenzied excitement that easily makes them forget that the story unfolds over a running time of 125 minutes. A story that is cleverly punctuated by the seven deadly sins, which intertwine with the misadventures of this gang of endearing smugglers. As they sink into an increasingly inextricable situation, and faced with such excess, we wonder if and how all of this will be resolved, a trap from which the plot skilfully extricates itself.

Gangsta is a film of excess. It goes too fast, too heavy, and too far – while simultaneously keeping control. It's surprising that this film found a means for its ambitions. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have digested their influences, and found a story and form clever enough to deliver effective and punchy entertainment.

The film stars Matteo Simoni (Marina [+see also:
trailer
interview: Cristiano Bortone
film profile
]
, Terug Naar Morgen
 [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), excellent in his role as a flawed thug, caught in the middle and full of disdain, acting alongside a trio of "newcomers," none of whom come from typical acting backgrounds. Nora Gharib, Junes Lazaar and Said Boumazoughe are three unexpected comedians who sincerely and veraciously inject overflowing energy into their characters.

Although the directors’ non-European influences are fairly apparent (American gangster film classics such as The City of God by Fernando Meirelles, and Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee), the influence of their compatriot Nabil Ben Yadir is also obvious. The Barons [+see also:
film review
trailer
Interview with director and actress of…
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
, released in 2008, takes a look at what it means to be a young Belgian of Moroccan descent in Brussels, whereas El Arbi and Fallah ponder the same question, but in the working-class neighbourhoods of Antwerp.

Gangsta was produced by A Team Productions – which also produced Black and Image – and was co-produced by 10.80 Films, the company created by Nabil Ben Yadir (Bllnd Spot [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
, La Marche [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
, The Barons
) and Benoît Roland (Wrong Men Productions), as well as by Column Films in the Netherlands. The film is due to be distributed by Kinepolis in Belgium, and sold internationally by Indie Sales.

(Translated from French)

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