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CANNES 2024 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: Plastic Guns


- CANNES 2024: Jean-Christophe Meurisse’s third feature is a farcical retelling of real-life events that leans heavily on macabre humour

Review: Plastic Guns
Delphine Baril and Charlotte Laemmel in Plastic Guns

“Inspired by true events,” reads the title card of Plastic Guns [+see also:
interview: Jean-Christophe Meurisse
film profile
, the newest effort by French director Jean-Christophe Meurisse, which closed the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Before we learn that the film will poke fun at the 2011 Dupont de Ligonnès murders and disappearance, the opening scene frames two pathologists leaning over a dead body. As they cut the chest open and extract the organs, they debate crime series and the percentage of cruelty that Netflix viewers consume with every watch (an estimated 30%, they say). Such macabre humour permeates Plastic Guns from beginning to end, making it a hoot of a closing film for the Fortnight in particular.

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It is the pathologists from the opening scene that introduce us to Zavatta (Anthony Paliotti), in admiring whispers. According to them, he is supposedly the best profiler who could outsmart even the most elusive of serial killers, but when the scene cuts to show us the man himself, his slow-motion stroll through an airport lounge (toothpick in his mouth) is simply laughable. In the bathroom, he spots a man whose passport says Michel Uzès ​​(Gaëtan Peau), but according to Zavatta, he is a serial killer on the run – Paul Bernardin, the murderer of his own wife and three children – and the police have to be alerted. In the meantime, somewhere else in France, Léa (Delphine Baril) and Christine (Charlotte Laemmel) are being awarded Facebook Investigation Diplomas for their expert work on the Bernardin case, from the comfort of their homes. In Buenos Aires, a man (Laurent Stocker) who may be the real Bernardin is about to get married to an unsuspecting young woman.

Plastic Guns jumps between Denmark, France and Argentina – between police stations, airports, holiday destinations and country houses – following all of these characters as their agendas converge in said murder case. Léa and Christine are perhaps the most intriguing figures in the film, as they represent both the Reddit/4chan investigative communities and women’s pronounced interest in true crime, so it’s only natural that the script by Meurisse and Amélie Philippe lets them go the furthest. The men, Zavatta, Bernardin and Uzès, all make fools of themselves, thus taking the film’s edge off, while still retaining a bit of frightfulness.

To make an absurd comedy out of stark reality requires nuance and sensitivity, and as a result, the jokes may not be to everyone’s liking, and nor would the highly strung performances that are also proudly theatrical. That said, Plastic Guns would land well even with a more sceptical viewer, because it allows for time to unfold (through long takes and expansive dialogue) and for the characters to develop. Its premise also keeps one guessing about who the real killer is, which is the simple, but effective, pleasure of watching a crime-comedy anyway. At the film’s very end, there is a spine-chilling reminder that the things we laugh at are often the ones with the most dangerous potential behind them – but until then, it can all be fun and games for a little while.

Plastic Guns was produced by French companies Mamma Roman and Kick’n Rush, and is sold overseas by Charades.

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