Staying alive becomes problematic for a painfully ordinary guy in "Anthony Zimmer," a stylish, strictly-for-fun, lightweight thriller. Pic visits the finest hotels on the French Riviera and provides nifty excuses for chase scenes, close calls with no-nonsense goons and other accoutrements of the wrong-man genre.

Staying alive becomes problematic for a painfully ordinary guy in “Anthony Zimmer,” a stylish, strictly-for-fun, lightweight thriller. Pic visits the finest hotels on the French Riviera and provides nifty excuses for chase scenes, close calls with no-nonsense goons and other accoutrements of the wrong-man genre. Well-staged antics are not of the breathless variety, but a handful of original moments and a satisfying twist make the movie better than average. Opening April 27 to good local reviews, debut from scripter-director Jerome Salle is worth a look by offshore distribs.

At a meeting in Paris, high-ranking police official Ackerman (Sami Frey) briefs a panel of law-enforcement professionals. His topic is Anthony Zimmer, a 39-year-old criminal worth tens of millions of dollars, who’s an ace at international money laundering. Because Zimmer has undergone radical surgery on his face and voice, nobody knows what he looks or sounds like. His wanted poster features just a dark silhouette.

Meanwhile, at a Paris train station, classy femme fatale Chiara Manzoni (Sophie Marceau) waits for a messenger. Her instructions: Board the express for Nice and find a run-of-the-mill male to entice.

A delicious combo of self-sufficiency and regal entitlement, Chiara picks a seat opposite nerdy translator Francois Taillandier (Yvan Attal), age 38. Francois’ wife dumped him six months ago and he’s going on vacation to a rural inn somewhere in the south of France.

After shamelessly employing several chapters from Seduction 101, Chiara has no trouble getting Francois to trade his modest plans for her lavish ones. They’re soon installed in a fabulous suite at the Carlton in Cannes, and Chiara has given Francois the pricey men’s wristwatch she happens to be wearing.

Francois doesn’t know what hit him. But the morning after Chiara kisses him on their highly visible balcony, marksmen start trying to take him out. Francois is obliged to run (literally) for his life and jettison his mild-mannered ways to survive. But as Chiara pops in and out of the picture, he begins to think that getting mistaken for a man with no shortage of lethal enemies may not be all bad.

With age, Marceau’s face has taken on striking thoroughbred contours, and she’s obviously enjoying herself here. Attal plays the geeky Everyman with convincing strokes, and the rarely seen Frey is an immeasurable plus with presence to burn. Polish thesp Daniel Olbrychski is also a nice choice as a former KGB agent with a special interest in locating Zimmer.

Widescreen lensing on the Riviera and in Ibiza imparts the proper glamor quotient. Faux-Herrmann/Hitchcock score is pleasingly apt.

Anthony Zimmer

France

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Fidelite Prods., Alter Films, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: StudioCanal, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.) Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Alain Terzian. Directed, written by Jerome Salle.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Denis Rouden; editor, Richard Marizy; music, Frederic Talgorn; production designer, Laurent Piron; costume designer, Carine Sarfati; sound (Dolby), Didier Sain, Pascal Villard, Jean-Paul Hurier; associate producer, Eric Jehelmann; assistant director, Euric Allaire; casting, Brigitte Moidon. Reviewed at UGC Les Halles, Paris, April 28, 2005. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Sophie Marceau, Yvan Attal, Sami Frey, Gilles Lellouche, Daniel Olbrychski, Samir Guesmi, Dimitri Rataud.
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