Le Petit Lieutenant

As French director Xavier Beauvois' deliberately slow policier shifts its focus away from the idealistic young Paris police lieutenant of the title to his commanding officer's interior struggle, it becomes an ideal vehicle for the considerable talents of star Nathalie Baye. Having just graduated from the police academy but happily unable to land an assignment...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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As French director Xavier Beauvois' deliberately slow policier shifts its focus away from the idealistic young Paris police lieutenant of the title to his commanding officer's interior struggle, it becomes an ideal vehicle for the considerable talents of star Nathalie Baye. Having just graduated from the police academy but happily unable to land an assignment any closer to his wife and child back home in dull Le Havre, young and enthusiastic Antoine (Jalil Lespert) is appointed to the Paris Detective Unit's 2nd Division, and is soon handpicked to serve in a unit commanded by Inspector Caroline Vaudieu (Baye). The daughter of a well-respected "supercop," Inspector Vaudieu is only just returning to the streets of Paris after three years behind a desk; the death of her young son and the harsh realities of her job led to burnout and heavy drinking. Two years sober and inspired by Antoine's idealism, Inspector Vaudieu is given the opportunity to prove her competence when the body of an unidentified man is found floating in a canal with 300 euros still in his pocket. The victim, who turns out to be a recent Polish emigre who may have been homeless, was last seen at a soup kitchen in the company of two Russian men. After a second man is pulled half-alive from the Seine after he's attacked by two men fitting a similar description, Vaudieu ascertains the suspects' names by tracing them to a vineyard where they once worked. While on a stakeout, Antoine spots one of the men. Unable to locate his partner after he ducks into a local bar for a beer, Antoine follows the suspect up to his hotel room alone and is seriously wounded. The incident lands Antoine in a coma and his partner in serious trouble with Internal Affairs, but it's Inspector Vaudieu who appears to be hardest hit. Her faith badly shaken, she struggles once again with turning to the bottle for consolation. That the crime is mundane and solved through routine policework seems to be Beauvois' point: The reality of life on the Parisian police force has little to do with what we usually see in the movies, though the movies are what made Antoine want to become a cop in the first place. Unfortunately, mundane real life can make for some pretty dull viewing, and the only thing that enlivens Beauvois' anti-thriller is Baye's beautiful performance, a career high that culminates in a tip of the hat to her first great director, Francois Truffaut.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: As French director Xavier Beauvois' deliberately slow policier shifts its focus away from the idealistic young Paris police lieutenant of the title to his commanding officer's interior struggle, it becomes an ideal vehicle for the considerable talents of s… (more)

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