A quietly confident Gallic caper comedy in which a laid-back data processor embezzles the embezzlers of a rural French supermarket in the wake of a squall, “Before the Storm” is distinguished by a sure narrative hand and a subversively droll demeanor. Fresh spin on a popular genre should produce traffic in fest aisles, with modest arthouse rainmaking possible.
A howling gale has knocked out power in a village on the rugged French coast. Unemployed techie Franck Meyer (Jonathan Zaccai), whose “whatever” attitude barely masks an innate alertness, is summoned by a temp agency to repair the local market’s aging computer system.
Once on-site, he discovers a mysterious, crudely written software program, code-named Betty Boop, disrupting the method in which the substantial daily cash totals are reported to the head office. Store manager Hopquin (Bernard Le Coq) seems unusually nervous, and points the finger at missing accountant Michael Castel (Alain Grollier).
When Castel is found dead in the surf, Franck begins to uncover Hopquin’s plan to divert some of the money. His unlikely accomplices in the scheme include mysterious yet lusty hotel manager Frederique (Aure Atina), local layabout Charlus (Guillaume Viry) and Castel’s bitter widow Laura (Florence Thomassini)Debuting helmer Stephane Allagnon understands the caper terrain and the leavening balance of humor and eccentricity that are hallmarks of genre standouts from “Local Hero” to “Blood Simple.” Violence is downplayed in favor of well-thesped character quirks: When Frederique needs to understand the caper’s nuances, she dumps out the sugar bowl and uses the cubes to recap the pic’s plot.
Tech package is pro, from Yves Cape’s unfussy camera to Philippe Chiffre’s production design and the expansive sound mix, all of which vividly evoke the chaotic effects of that mighty wind.