Review: Earth and Blood
- Starring the excellent Sami Bouajila, Julien Leclercq’s film punchily transposing the codes of the western to a story about gangs and a solitary hero, boss of a sawmill, is released on Netflix
A gun, an eye, a torrential rain drowning the outside world, a man with his hands clutching the wheel as his three partners prepare their machine guns and balaclavas before launching their robbery on the seals of a police station to steal 8 kilos of cocaine. Welcome to the very incisive Earth and Blood [+see also:
interview: Julien Leclercq
film profile] by Julien Leclercq, a Franco-Belgian film produced directly for Netflix and launched on the platform worldwide on 17 April.
Moving at a fast pace, the script written by the director (very comfortable in pure action cinema, as he already proved with The Assault [+see also:
film profile] and The Crew [+see also:
film profile]) and Jérémie Guez in collaboration with Matthieu Serveau, sees Medhi (Redouanne Harjane), one of the two survivors of the attack, attempt to put the drugs aside for his own profit instead of giving them back to his accomplice as planned, the fearsome Adama (Ériq Ebouaney), boss of a gang from the banlieues. To that end, he gives the car which hides the drugs to his step-brother, Yanis (Samy Seghir), a young man trying to reintegrate society following a stint in jail by working in the heart of the forest, in a sawmill headed by Saïd (Sami Bouajila), who lives there with Sarah (Sofia Lesaffre), his deaf and mute sister. Saïd is about to sell the family business because of severe health troubles he hasn’t yet told anyone about. But Adama’s “bad guys” soon find the trail of “their” drugs and burst in, armed to the teeth and in large numbers, to retrieve them…
The intertwining of the viril universes of lumberjacks and thugs was already explored in a different manner in Robert Enrico’s The Wise Guys (1965), but it remains a very good cinematic idea which Julien Leclercq efficiently explores in terms of realism, visual mood (with cinematography by Brecht Goyvaerts, who worked on the TV series Zone blanche) and the many possibilities offered by the setting to feed into the explosive character of the story (a game of hide and seek where life is at stake, chases through the woods, shootouts, a fire, an alarm, the various — and sharp — machines of the sawmill, etc.).
Playing on a constant suspense and a rhythm that violently accelerates, maintaining high pressure throughout, Earth and Blood recycles the codes of the western to an almost hard-rock beat, around iconic figures and the duel opposing the “good” and the “bad / ugly”, played by Bouajila (excellent as always) and the hieratic Ebouaney. Crafting at high speed a story based on the importance of biological connections (father and daughter, step-brothers, brothers; “this is family! It’s the blood talking!”) and the reflexes of revenge (“an eye for an eye”) and survival, the film does not really bother with psychology (“do not speak with fancy words”) and bets on 100% adrenalin in real time (“this is now, it’s happening now!”), on urgency and suspense. A condensed story rougher than rough about what’s essential (react or die), with the filmmaker in perfect control of its dynamics, and Netflix an ideal partner and launching platform to help the film reach the largest audience possible.
Produced by Julien Madon (Producer on the Move 2016 of the European Film Promotion) and Julien Leclercq for Labyrinthe Films, Earth and Blood was co-produced by Belgian company Umedia, with the support of Wallimage among others.
(Translated from French)
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