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(2009)

A Prophet

Starring:

Adel Bencherif

Antoine Basler

Foued Nassah

Gilles Cohen

Hichem Yacoubi

Jean-Emmanuel Pagni

Jean-Philippe Ricci

Leïla Bekhti

Niels Arestrup

Pierre Leccia

Reda Kateb

Tahar Rahim

Directed by:

Jacques Audiard

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 155 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Jacques Audiard cements his place as the ruler of European hardbitten crime dramas with this gritty gangster yarn with an incarcerated Arab twist. Not that anyone except the staunchest Europhiles are likely to have heard of him but don’t that put you off searching out this gem.

Un Prophète follows Malik (Rahim), a young Arab who finds himself in a French prison after committing an unnamed crime. Malik is chosen by prison kingpin César Luciani (Arestrup) to kill a fellow inmate as a rite of passage into gang life. Malik reluctantly goes through with it, gains the respect of the dominant gang and becomes the boss’s lapdog. However, the once naive Malik soon learns the ropes and begins to build his own criminal empire. Newcomer, Rahim, is a revelation as the illiterate thug-done-good and he deserves all his nominations and future awards bestowed upon him.

On the face of it, Un Prophète sticks to the script – ethnic minority and criminal novice starts at the bottom of the pile and works his way up by killing, double crossing and gaining respect, until he becomes the undisputed Don and inherits a whole new bundle of problems. That’s all been done a number of times before in one guise or another but where this differs from, say Scarface, is that it’s just a little bit deeper. There’s less of the glossy sheen and overblown caricaturing, more gritty social realism and complex characterisation to wrangle with. Audiard also brings attention to the French prison system and the social, ethnic and economic disparities in contemporary French society. That’s not to say it is better than Scarface, it’s just a different kind of quality.

It's Got: Great characterisation, realism, depth.

It Needs: To simplify the narrative a tad.

Alternatives:

Gomorra, Mesrine, Scarface

Summary

A quality hardbitten crime drama that prevails thanks to an admirable depth and an out-of-the-ordinary context.

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