The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Paris Countdown

I love action movies from other countries. American action pictures, even when good, usually have a rhythm and sensibility that has become familiar to audiences. Watch one from another part of the world, though, and you're likely to see different rhythms and different sensibilities coming into play. France's Paris Countdown, despite possessing some definite strengths, ultimately feels as though it's hewing to a well-honed formula - one inspired by action cinema from our shores. The film is moderately entertaining, but it also feels like dozens of similar movies we've all seen over the years.

Victor (Jacques Gamblin) and Milan (Olivier Marchal) are longtime friends and business partners. When they become unable to pay their debts, Milan gets them involved in a drug deal that goes bad. The police arrest and torture them, so they save themselves by testifying against their liaison, Serki (Carlo Brandt). Six years later, the psychotic Serki gets out of jail and comes looking for the now-estranged friends. The two men must endure a tense reunion in order to escape Paris and the imminent threat against their lives.

Paris Countdown has a fairly thin plot. It's not much more than a chase through the streets of the city. Victor and Milan wander through nightclubs and down alleys, and, in one beautifully photographed scene, hop a boat for an evening escape. Occasionally, they are confronted by Serki or one of the goons helping to do his bidding. Even at a brisk ninety minutes, this isn't quite enough story for the movie to be fully engaging. And because some of the various supporting thugs and criminals aren't properly introduced, things get a little confusing as the plot winds toward its conclusion.

The film does, however, have a number of things working in its favor, not the least of which is a dynamic performance from Carlo Brandt as Serki. In films of this genre, the bad guy is often a little over-the-top. Serki, in contrast, is lean, mean, and efficient in his goal. No corny one-liners, no eloquent soliloquies about his criminal philosophies just a pissed-off dude intent on getting some revenge. Gamblin and Marchal are pretty good too, conveying how their characters' different personalities have eventually come to clash. There's a fair amount of focus on Victor resenting Milan for dragging him into a bad situation. Although this sort of thing has been done before, the actors generate legitimate empathy on our parts as the drama plays out.

The action scenes have been stylishly directed by Edgar Marie, with a slow-motion shootout standing as a particular highlight. The long tracking shot that closes out Paris Countdown is a stunner, as well. In the end, though, all the positive qualities don't quite compensate for the overall sensation of familiarity. There's just not enough about the movie that we haven't seen before. It needed a little more plot, a little more substance, and a little more willingness to carve out a distinct path for itself.

( 1/2 out of four)

Paris Countdown is unrated but contains violence, nudity, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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