THE NADA GANG (aka: NADA) is a bracingly satirical and razor-sharp political thriller about terrorism from director Claude Chabrol, working at the top of his cool, calculated, and ultra-cynical form.
The Nada gang, a group of left-wing anarchists, consists of the leader Diaz (Fabio Testi), the militant son of a Spanish revolutionary; Epaulard (Maurice Garrel), a disillusioned and aging ex-Communist turned mercenary; the alcoholic D'Arey (Lou Castel); Meyer (Didier Kaminka), a waiter whose wife
Anna (Katia Romanoff) is mentally disturbed; and Treuffais (Michel Duchaussoy), a philosophy teacher. They plot to kidnap Richard Poindexter (Lyle Joyce), the American Ambassador to France, but Treuffais gets cold feet and pulls out at the last minute. The others go through with the plan and
abduct Poindexter from a posh Parisian brothel, but kill his bodyguards and some policemen during their escape. The gang then goes to the country and hides out in the farmhouse of Veronique Cash (Mariangelo Melato), a prostitute friend of Diaz.
Inspector Goemond (Michel Aumont) is put in charge of the case and learns that the kidnapping was secretly filmed by some operatives working for an imprisoned, renegade intelligence agent. The government is forced to release the rogue agent in order to get the film, which enables Goemond to track
down Meyer's wife, who slashes her throat, and Treuffais, who's tortured. Goemond learns the location of the farmhouse, and encouraged by his superiors, stages a commando raid on it and massacres most of the gang members, even though they are trying to surrender. The wounded Diaz kills Poindexter
and escapes, then alerts the press about the police brutality, causing a public outcry that results in Goemond being suspended. Goemond tries to bait Diaz by telling reporters that Treuffais was a traitor who had been working for the police, then goes to Treuffais's apartment to wait for Diaz.
Diaz eventually shows up and they kill each other; Treuffais then phones the press to give them the real story of the Nada gang.
Beginning with farcical parade-style music, an opening disclaimer that reads: "This is a work of pure fiction, therefore it is not unimaginable," and a title that literally means "nothing" in Spanish, NADA is a uniquely Chabrolian mixture of absurdist humor, nihilistic satire, pitiless character
study, and riveting thriller. Directed with customary cold-blooded expertise, it's superbly acted and boasts expertly filmed suspense scenes, as well as moments of wry, low-key observation and black comedy which are punctuated by sudden bursts of shocking violence (the philosophy teacher attacking
a German in a traffic jam and pulling a switchblade on him; the waiter killing a policeman with a slingshot; the ambassador calling a prostitute "Salome" as she does a veil dance before he's kidnapped; the depiction of Goemond as a bumbling sycophant who takes out his sadistic frustrations on
While sympathizing with the goals of the terrorists, Chabrol doesn't take sides with one group or the other, treating both the anarchists and the government as two sides of the same coin, and condemning both left-wing and state-run terrorism as accomplishing nothing more than maintaining the
status quo ("the state prefers terrorism to true revolution" as Diaz eventually realizes). While Diaz, the son of a Communist leader who was killed in the Spanish Civil War, genuinely believes in revolution, the other terrorists are simply bored, or drunk, or jaded, funneling their despair into
something that will allow them to control their own fates in a repressive and mechanized universe, screaming "Merde...Vive la mort" as they're being gunned down. The government, meanwhile, is simply a bourgeois, backstabbing bureaucracy in which its members are callously, but politely, betrayed
and sacrificed by superiors for the ultimate "good of the state." Chabrol's treatment is dispassionate, but it has a distinctive point of view, unlike Bruno Baretto's similarly themed, but blandly neutral FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER (1997), based on the real-life kidnapping of the American Ambassador
to Brazil. NADA may be a cynical portrait of a society gone mad, but it's a highly entertaining portrait, and not, as the disclaimer suggests, "unimaginable." (Violence, nudity, profanity.)
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: THE NADA GANG (aka: NADA) is a bracingly satirical and razor-sharp political thriller about terrorism from director Claude Chabrol, working at the top of his cool, calculated, and ultra-cynical form. The Nada gang, a group of left-wing anarchists, consist… (more)