With the uneven crime comedy “Shooting Star,” it is Graham Guit’s turn to display the latest generation of French helmers’ full-blown fetish for firearms. The love story between a novice hustler and a smitten hit girl on the run gets lost in the Tarantino-inspired trendiness, as will the pic itself once it travels beyond the borders of France. Word of mouth may make it a minor cult vehicle among Euro-ravers and a drawing card on the fest circuit, but its ultimate pulling power will be in alternative vid bins.
After Mathieu Kassovitz (“Assassin(s)”) and Jan Kounen (“Dobermann”), the once obligatory dining-and-debating scenes of French auteur cinema are rapidly being replaced by the barrel of a huge handgun repeatedly pointed at some trembling victim, usually as a pretext for scoring macho dialogue points. Throughout 29-year-old Guit’s first feature, the in-your-face gun device occurs frequently, but is leavened with heavy doses of drug lust and a retro-’70s psychedelia characteristic of rave culture.
Pic’s biggest strength lies in its fast pacing. The story opens in London, where feckless young Frenchman Lenny (Raul Ruiz favorite Melvil Poupaud) cons a trusting Brit out of her money, scores a few grams of cocaine and then heads to Paris to peddle his goods. He’s put in touch with Joel (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), a dangerous, drug-dealing dandy, and his violence-prone Sancho Panza, Sammy (Issac Sharry). Lenny cuts the coke, gets his cash from Joel and then hurriedly buys a plane ticket before his double-dealing is discovered.
Enter Juliette (Romane Bohringer), g.f. and apprentice gun-toting crony of Joel. She lures Lenny into bed, where he’s quickly relieved of his earnings and his means of escape. But love rears its unexpected head, and Juliette double-crosses the psychopathic Joel by stealing out of his house with what she thinks is a suitcase full of money.
In fact, it holds dozens of vials of Special K, the drug of choice for Ecstasy-fatigued techno heads. Pic then turns cat-and-mouse as Juliette and Lenny try to unload their valuable cache and Joel and Sammy attempt to eliminate them.
Poupaud’s slovenly, unprincipled Lenny and Ecoffey’s clothes-conscious, honor-bound Joel carry what little verisimilitude the cartoonish script allows, but the thesps never stray from the opposites they are meant to portray. As Juliette, Bohringer is given a thankless and fairly predictable role as tough girl in love.
More rewarding are the supports. Patrick Lizana, in a minor turn as a cowardly junkie-turned-alky ready to handle the much-coveted Special K, gets the loudest laughs with his addled deal-making. And rising French star Elodie Bouchez, with two cameos as a doomed drug-seller and an angel of Ecstasy in a final party scene, adds a much-needed touch of beautiful weirdness to the proceedings.
But it is almost unfair to talk of perfs when so much of the action is drowned out by the soundtrack, blasting away Polygram hits past and present. Effect is like forgetting to remove your Walkman during the pic’s running time. Fortunately, Jean-Marc Mirete’s retro costuming and Olivier Carriou’s lensing — replete with vid-clip tricks that don’t necessarily further the plot — contain enough visual surprises to keep restless cinephiles in their seats.
Helmer Guit suffers from no pretensions to profundity, keeping the tale moving along with few of the thoughtful pauses that afflict many young auteurs. It remains to be seen what happens when he, along with his thirtysomething mean-humored peers, decides to drop his gun in favor of real storytelling.