Published Apr 04, 2013Conceptually, Pierre Jolivet's police crime drama, Armed Hands, has a lot of potential; Lucas (Roschdy Zem) and Maya (Leila Bekhti), estranged father/daughter cops investigate a Serbian crime ring operating out of Paris from very different vantage points. Lucas is an arms investigator obtaining and exploiting intelligence to establish root cause while Maya works as a low-level narcotics officer, treating the symptom of the problem and grabbing some stray drugs for personal use along the way.
Their similar disposition and distrust for each other should, in theory, add drama and dimension to a complex criminal investigation spread throughout Europe. But, while Jolivet smartly focuses on their characters and their individual quotidian experience—Lucas being a quiet loner and Maya an unreasonable loose cannon that takes risks—he never really ties any of this in with the surface plot intended to bring everything together.
As a result, the experience of viewing Armed Hands is simultaneously intriguing and frustrating, having the potential for dramatic intensity despite repeated missed opportunities and unearned, overly pat, resolutions.
Jolivet's indifference to the criminal plot results in a lot of pointless shootouts and sting operations that do little to propel the narrative. Similarly, his attention to the aesthetic component is nil, giving them a standardized television procedural feel. And while this lack of progress and resolution in investigating a Serbian crime syndicate is truer to life than most films would suggest, it doesn't make for particularly compelling viewing.
Still, both Zem and Bekhti are invested in their roles, delivering performances based almost entirely on subdued, unspoken feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Though they go through the motions and refuse verbal or physical catharsis, their responses to situations and quiet reactions to unknown tidbits about each other's lives does help give some humanity and heart to their respective plights.
With a bit more polish and consideration for connecting the dots and developing an emotional arc, Armed Hands is the rare example of a film that would actually benefit from a remake. Although, considering its likely limited audience, even this is an unlikelihood. (Mars Films)