Review: ‘Burnt Out’

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.

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.

Burnt Out

France

Production

A Haut et Court Distribution (in France) of a Le Bureau production in association with Gimages Films. (International sales: The Bureau, London.) Produced by Bertrand Faivre. Directed by Fabienne Godet. Screenplay, Godet, Franck Vassal, with Juliette Sales.

Crew

Camera (color), Crystel Fournier; editor, Francoise Tourmen; music, Dario Marianelli; production designer, Delphine Mabed; costume designer, Marine Chauveau. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi), Sept. 17, 2005. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Olivier Gourmet, Dominique Blanc, Julie Depardieu, Marion Cotillard, Jean-Michel Portal, Jeffrey Barbeau, Jean-Marie Winling, Pascal Elso, Francois Levantal.
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