An ordinary man violently rebels against corporate indifference in “Burnt Out,” a disappointing attempt to combine Laurent Cantet-style workplace critique with clumsily handled thriller elements. First feature by French helmer Fabienne Godet, whose sardonic original title is “With All Due Respect,” gets little mileage out of a shell-shocked Olivier Gourmet, the Dardennes brothers’ muse, as antihero. Though the ideas are there and a few key scenes click, the disjointed narrative fails to build the viewer involvement needed to raise hopes for life beyond fest slots.
Jumping right into white collar Francois’ (Gourmet) night-time escape from Nantes to Paris with hitchhiker Flora (Julie Depardieu), story gets off to a confused start. A flashback reveals his tense family life, a by-product one supposes of passively accepting his boss’s high-handed ways at work. The firing of his friend Simon (Jean-Michel Portal) sets off a shocking, justifiably gruesome scene that leads to Francois going temporarily berserk. Decent cast, which includes Dominique Blanc as Francois’ struggling wife, barely gets a chance to create believable characters. Subplot involving a journalist, and almost all the noir touches have a perfunctory ring and hinder the film’s strong theme.