By Adam Ray Palmer
Following on from his critically acclaimed Far From Men, David Oelhoffen returns four years later with his 2018 drama, Frères Ennemis (Close Enemies).
This Belgian-French picture is also written by Oelhoffen and stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Reda Kateb and Sabrina Ouazani.
Born and raised in a suburb ridden by drug trafficking, Driss (Reda Kateb) and Manuel (Matthias Schoenaerts) are two childhood friends who end up taking opposite paths: Manuel chose to embrace the thug life, while Driss becomes a cop. When Manuel's biggest deal goes terribly wrong, the two men meet again and come to realise they both need each other to survive in their worlds.
Between betrayals and resentments, and despite their hatred, they renew deep ties around the one thing they have left in common: their visceral commitment to the place of their childhood.
Just from the synopsis alone, you know what type of film you are getting, and therefore you know what type of review I will be giving. This is a straight down the middle film, which is what I like to call movies that exist but are inoffensive either way. It tells a story with nothing to turn you off it, but also nothing to go running to your friends WhatsApp group to tell them all about it.
Matthias Schoenaerts is the villain here and plays it luke-warm. He’s billed as the ‘baddie’ but in reality, I more dislike Kateb’s character Driss even though he’s the ‘goodie’ cop. I find Driss arrogant, smug, cunning and a bore. Schoenaerts’ Manuel has a bit more personality with a little more empathy – I actually willed for him to succeed in his journey.
I did find the narrative arrangement interesting though. The film is quite clearly hyped as an action drama with all the promotion and posters, but it’s a lot more stripped back than that. The action plays second-fiddle to the relationship stories and character development. It was a nice alternative.
On the whole, Frères Ennemis won’t set the world alight, but it’s a decent night in type of movie or, perhaps a cheeky £5 indie cinema visit. Either way, good fun but nothing fresh.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 stars
Frères Ennemis is set to be released in France on 3rd October 2018 – certificate 15 (yet to be picked for UK distribution)