The opening of "Dead End" is a nail-biter of a sequence that creates great expectations, but this French-Canadian policier never delivers on its early promise. Joanne Arseneau's script teases viewers with interesting elements --- everything from neo-Nazi skinheads to Russian mobsters --- but fails to find a dramatic payoff in the material. In spite of helmer Richard Ciupka's effective creation of noir atmosphere and strong work from the cast, pic appears destined not to break out of its cul-de-sac, with the small screen a more comfortable fit. It opened across Quebec March 26 to a less than stellar first-weekend tally of C$ 76,500 ($ 50,600).

The opening of “Dead End” is a nail-biter of a sequence that creates great expectations, but this French-Canadian policier never delivers on its early promise. Joanne Arseneau’s script teases viewers with interesting elements — everything from neo-Nazi skinheads to Russian mobsters — but fails to find a dramatic payoff in the material. In spite of helmer Richard Ciupka’s effective creation of noir atmosphere and strong work from the cast, pic appears destined not to break out of its cul-de-sac, with the small screen a more comfortable fit. It opened across Quebec March 26 to a less than stellar first-weekend tally of C$ 76,500 ($ 50,600).

The film kicks off in stylish fashion with some heavy breathing emanating from a plastermummy. Trapped guy is breathing through two straws, which are subsequently removed in rather dramatic fashion.

Cop Laurent Vaillancourt (Luc Picard) is in for an unpleasant shock when he discovers at a crime scene that his brother Martin (Michel Goyette) has been brutally murdered. Laurent decides to drop everything to solve the case, and the deeper he delves into the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death, the murkier the tale becomes.

Martin was a white supremacist with plenty of nasty pals, including a bunch of Russian criminals, and he was the subject of a police investigation when he was bumped off. To further complicate things, their dad (Julien Poulin) is a former Quebec-nationalist terrorist who’s also under police suspicion.

Laurent follows the trail of far-fetched clues to small-town Arkansas, home to extreme right-wing militia groups, redneck cops, crazed good-ol’-boys and crooked FBI agents. Pic’s conspiracy theory widens to include most of the law enforcement figures in the drama.

Arseneau’s yarn is classic noir fare — complete with the disillusioned cop who’s dumped by his wife, is under pressure from his bosses to drop the investigation and fighting it out with a bunch of corrupt police. But the film shoots off in too many directions, pressing various hot buttons and then quickly moving on, leaving no room to develop any of its subplots. Finale is particularly far-fetched.

Picard is perfect as the quintessential hard-bitten antihero, showcasing the requisite mix of hip sexiness and just-under-the-boiling-point intensity. Veteran character actor Poulin is also good as the revolutionary dad, an unhappy man frustrated that he’s driving a cab instead of throwing Molotov cocktails at politicians.

All tech credits are first-rate. Much of the dialogue is in English, given that a large part of the action takes place in Arkansas.

Dead End

(POLITICAL THRILLER -- CANADIAN)

Production

A Lions Gate Films release (in Canada) of a Vision 4 production. (International sales: Sonoma Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Claude Veillet, Jacques Bonin. Directed by Richard Ciupka. Screenplay, Joanne Arseneau.

Crew

Camera (color), Steve Danyluk; editor, Glenn Berman; music, Serge Laforest, Gaetan Gravel, Daniel Belanger, Djelem; art director, Jean Becotte; costumes, Nicole Pelletier; sound, Michel Charron, Louis Dupire; associate producer, Lucie Veillet; casting, Ginette D'Amico. Reviewed at the Quartier Latin Cinema, Montreal, March 26, 1999 . Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Laurent Vaillancourt ..... Luc Picard Normand Vaillancourt ..... Julien Poulin Martin Vaillancourt ..... Michel Goyette Sherif Mitchum ..... Serge Houde Bob McKee ..... Lorne Brass Dina Anderson ..... Linda Singer
With: Donovan Reiter, Chip Chiupka, Doris Milmore, Richard Robitaille, Steve Banner, Anatoly Zinoviev, Sean Devine.
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