San Antonio

A tongue-in-cheek clunker that's strangely entertaining because it's so jaw-droppingly bad, "San Antonio" finds the titular French police inspector on a 48-hour mission to track down the abruptly missing president of France. A surefire cure for anyone under the impression French cinema is always synonymous with class and sophistication.

A tongue-in-cheek clunker that’s strangely entertaining because it’s so jaw-droppingly bad, “San Antonio” finds the titular French police inspector — the relaxed and fallible hero of 190 novels by the late Frederic Dard — on a 48-hour mission to track down the abruptly missing president of France. A surefire cure for anyone under the impression French cinema is always synonymous with class and sophistication, pic would surely feel au courant if this were, say, 1974 instead of 2004. Salacious remarks, improbable (but not shoddy) action sequences and a target demographic from 50-to-dead, make this a mass market item in Gaul and a harder-to-peddle oddity offshore.

Suave cop Antoine San Antonio (Gerard Lanvin) and Lieutenant Berurier (Gerard Depardieu), his chunky and chronically adulterous friend, have made it to the screen twice before, in 1966 (“Sale temps pour les mouches” ) and 1981 (“San Antonio ne pense qu’a ca”).

Championing a take on what women find irresistible that was already quasi-stale when Roger Moore was playing James Bond, latest update features repartee that veers between strained and semi-racy. Viewers learn law enforcement consists in large part of receiving and/or administering oral sex.

Central trio of Lanvin, Depardieu and their crusty boss (played by vet Michel Galabru) reps high profile talent gamely in the service of a story that’s barely worth telling. Except, of course, as a tip of the hat to a bygone book-and-movie fueled world where boys wanted to be cops or secret agents the way girls dreamed of being stewardesses — because going to work seemed to consist of driving cool cars, firing off irreverent one-liners as well as guns, and chatting up international babes of mystery.

One thing leads to another and then the movie’s over — thank goodness.

Jazz-inflected score is both a flagrant tip-off that the pic doesn’t take itself seriously and a wall-to-wall tribute to the punchy melodies that fueled episodic TV shows of the 1960s and ’70s.

San Antonio

France - U.K. - Italy

Production: A Pathe Distribution release of a Claude Berri presentation of a Hirsch-Pathe Renn Production-TF1 Films Production-Core Films Ltd.-Cattleya co-production with participation of CNC and Canal Plus. (International sales: Pathe Intl., Paris.) Produced by Claude Berri. Executive producer, Pierre Grunstein. Co-producer, Timothy Burrill. Directed by Fred Auburtin. Screenplay, Laurent Touil-Tartour, based on characters created by Frederic Dard.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Willy Stassen; editor, Guy Lecorne; music, Jean-Yves d'Angelo; production designer, Christian Marti; costume designer, Sylvie Gautretet; sound (Dolby), Pierre Gamet, Jacques Pibarot, Eric Mauer, Francois Groult; associate producer, Nathalie Rheims; associate co-producers, Napoleon Premiere; casting, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at UCG Odeon, Paris, July 26, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN. With Gerard Lanvin, Gerard Depardieu, Michel Galabru, Barbara Schulz, Eriq Ebouaney, Jeremie Renier, Luis Rego, Patachou, Michele Bernier, Robert Hossein, Valeria Golino, Jean Roger Milo, Cyrielle Clair.

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