Two redheads tired of their hard-knock lives decide to hit the road and go ballistic in “Our Day Will Come,” tyro provocateur Romain Gavras’ visually potent but remarkably vain feature debut. Riding the crest of edgy, violent contempo fare a la Bruno Dumont or Michael Haneke, yet with nothing to say about its subject matter (whatever that may be), this aesthetically engaging exercise is most notable for Vincent Cassel’s turn as a Gallic shrink gone wild. High expectations and beaucoup buzz should help pic reap decent arthouse biz before the day comes when it’s remembered as a hip, cultish misfire.
Son of vet helmer Costa-Gavras, Gavras fils recently made a name for himself by directing two controversial musicvids, both of which were banned intermittently from YouTube and MTV. Closer to docu-style shorts than traditional videos, the first (for Justice’s “Stress”) featured a gang of French banlieue youths attacking people in the streets of Paris, while the second (for M.I.A.’s “Born Free”) portrayed the fictional round-up and massacre of redheads in Los Angeles.
Though the latter shares some affinities with “Our Day Will Come” (whose title is drawn from an IRA slogan — and the film assumes all Irish people have red hair), there’s a lot less pseudo-political messaging in Gavras’ scenario (co-written with Karim Boukercha), which is basically a road bromance peppered with vicious beatings, sexual aggression and all manner of insults inflected upon Jews, Arabs, and women. Such malevolence is perhaps meant to be a critique of our brutal modern world, but the characters’ behavior is so unjustified and the storyline so absurd that its reflection on social tensions in France and elsewhere seems purely artificial.
What exactly drives troubled working-class teen Remy (Olivier Barthelemy) to beat his mother (Mathilde Braure) and skip town is unclear, but when he meets bored crackpot psychologist Patrick (Cassel), he immediately finds both a mentor and a travel companion. They’re not unlike the duo in “Fight Club”; Patrick teaches Remy how to bolster his testosterone by picking random street fights or boldly hitting on girls, and as the two make the rounds of France’s barren Nord-Pas de Calais region (depicted in several Dumont films), they spiral pretty far down the baseness scale before their time begins to run out.
Initially, the pic isn’t entirely unbecoming, and early scenes are intriguing and filled with offbeat humor, especially when Cassel mouths off to those around him. Such moments are matched by Gavras’ evident stylistic prowess: The movie features gorgeous widescreen visuals by d.p. Andre Chemetoff (“Dog Pound”), whose muted color palette works wonders with the desolate northern landscapes and drab interiors; editing by Benjamin Weill (“Anything for Her”) keeps the action sharp and rhythmic, and the score by electro artist SebastiAn serves the imagery well.
Yet once it’s evident that there’s hardly a point to all the random mischief — or that the point is precisely that there isn’t one — the idea of watching a pair of grown men inflect violence upon innocent bystanders feels awfully tedious. Meanwhile, the characters remain forever opaque, and even when they decide to defiantly shave their coveted hair, it fails to unlock any mysteries (except for the fact that when he’s bald, Cassel looks a lot like a giant reptile).
Perfs do help redeem some of the nothingness, and Cassel gives Patrick’s nihilism a bent that’s quite charming when it isn’t completely tasteless. Barthelemy (“Sheitan”) is physically imposing but grows monotone once Remy unleashes his demons: By the time he’s threatened his umpteenth victim, we couldn’t care less whether he’s red or dead.