An incendiary call to social anarchy, disguised as a tell-it-like-it-is portrait of life as lived by disenfranchised young males, Jean-Francois Richet’s “Crack 6-T” is a celluloid time bomb that should give Gallic exhibitors pause in all but the most bourgeois neighborhoods. Lensed in a populous housing project east of Paris, Richet’s sophomore effort mixes gutter slang with slick agitprop terminology in a fashion that may seem laughable to intellectuals and highbrow film buffs but plays like a license to disrupt for anyone young, antsy and well removed from the nearest ivory tower.
Unlike self-taught helmer’s first pic, the 1995 diamond in the rough “Inner City” (Etat des lieux), this technically more polished effort was financed by mainstream sources and is being sold internationally by TF1. Helmer prefaces the press kit with the statement, “We belong in libraries, not police stations”; but the film never addresses the issue, instead preferring to show amusements like setting fire to a garbage can and tossing it off an overpass at a patrol car.
“Inner City” examined the plight of the lowly worker. In “Crack 6-T,” Richet’s subject is the nonworker — the no-future teens and young adults who populate the subsidized ‘burbs of Paris. Pic follows two groups of young men until a vendetta between rival gangs is played out at a concert, with explosive results.
Characters, who wear U.S. rapper and gang-inspired garb and speak a marble-mouthed lingo to make Moliere spin in his grave, are subjected to random, unprovoked police checks. When they need liquor or wheels, they help themselves. Adult authority hangs by a thread when any epithet is sufficient cause for a rumble to the death. Pic isn’t the first to point out it’s a short step from killing time to killing one another.
The only category that eludes their philosophy of “desire equals acquisition” is women — for whom they have an impressive array of degrading terms. Glimpsed only briefly in this testosterone universe are a tough but exasperated high school principal at the end of her rope, a female cop from the Dirty Harry school of tolerance and a woman from the projects who holds down a job.
The Marxist babble throughout “Inner City” has been reduced here to a few conversations about economic and social forces. Pic also has flashes of humor, such as a scene in which Richet’s character tries to convince a woman to go out with him. When she razzes him for not having a job, he rationalizes that he’s unemployable because bosses always want him to remove his baseball cap, a request that really rubs him the wrong way.
Whereas the movie’s images are upsetting and abrasive, the score is rhythmic and restrained, making the violence doubly disconcerting. Richet knows what to do with the camera where fights and altercations are concerned but is less inspired for run-of-the-mill interactions.
Shoot, originally planned over a period of three months, finally took two years. (One key actor was out of circulation for a year, following an unspecified act of larceny.) French title translates roughly as “My housing project’s gonna explode.”