La Balance is a taut, engrossing crime drama which interweaves action and character interest to fine dramatic effect. Ironically, the film, with its purportedly factual overlay of details about contemporary Paris police and underworld mentalities, and its telling, unglossy use of the city, was written and directed by an American, Bob Swaim, 38, a former anthropology student-turned-filmmaker, based here for nearly 20 years. This is his second feature.

La Balance is a taut, engrossing crime drama which interweaves action and character interest to fine dramatic effect. Ironically, the film, with its purportedly factual overlay of details about contemporary Paris police and underworld mentalities, and its telling, unglossy use of the city, was written and directed by an American, Bob Swaim, 38, a former anthropology student-turned-filmmaker, based here for nearly 20 years. This is his second feature.

Swaim’s tale centers on the methods of the Brigades Territoriales, plainclothes detective squads that operate in different sectors of the capital and rely heavily on a network of local informers to nip crime in the bud.

When an informer in the Belleville quarter is murdered, apparently by a local hood (Maurice Ronet), the Brigade seeks a new nark who will be able to engineer an ambush for the gangster. A young inspector (Richard Berry) decides to pressure a prostitute (Nathalie Baye) and her boyfriend-mac (Philippe Leotard), who were once linked up with Ronet, into betraying him.

The obligatory action sequences are brought off in fine style, particularly the harrowing climactic ambush at a congested urban intersection, and the police procedural scenes are measured and credible. (Swaim had a real young inspector collaborate on the film dialog).

The acting is especially fine, with the big surprise being Nathalie Baye, at last breaking out of a syndrome of wholesome roles; as the street-wise young whore profoundly devoted with her man, she is real and affecting.

La Balance

France

Production

Ariane/Films A2. Director Bob Swaim; Producer Alexandre Mnouchkine, Georges Dancigers; Screenplay Bob Swaim, M. Fabiani; Camera Bernard Zitzermann; Editor Francoise Javet; Music Roland Bocquet, Boris Bergman; Art Director Eric Moulard

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1982. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Nathalie Baye Philippe Leotard Richard Berry Christophe Malavoy Maurice Ronet Tcheky Karyo
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