An impeccably tooled, high-octane sci-fi thrill ride that slathers a cookie-cutter plot with a thick layer of visionary surface cool, propulsive French actioner “Chrysalis” delivers a heapin’ helping of familiar genre goods in a shiny new package. Set to drop in Gaul on Halloween, pic’s biggest question mark Stateside is whether subtitles will fly with testosterone-fueled target aud.
In a gray Paris, circa 2020, high-tech surgeon Bruegen (Marthe Keller) and her daughter are involved in a horrible auto accident. Meanwhile, gung-ho European Police officer David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel, severely buffed) and his wife/partner are in a pitched gun battle with wild-eyed Bulgarian secret service renegade Dimitri Nikolov (Alain Figlarz), who sadistically offs Hoffman’s significant other.
When the shattered cop is re-partnered with tomboyish Marie Becker (Marie Guillard), the vigilante-esque hunt is on for the escaped thug. Trail eventually leads to Bruegen, whose recuperative work on daughter Manon (Melanie Thierry) involves not only the manipulation of dream and memory, but also the Bulgarian’s most recent human trafficking scam.
Genre fans will quickly suss out pics from which story is cobbled together. Major plot themes and/or visual references from “Eyes Without a Face,” “Blade Runner,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Minority Report” and even “Until the End of the World” massage a story that valiantly retains tension in the face of familiarity by mixing such plot frissons as a missing pair of Russian prosties and an unexpected set of twins into the mix.
Plot collapses completely through last-reel revelations involving Becker’s sinister uncle (an under-used Patrick Bachau) and an eye-rolling, left-field deus ex machina. Door’s left swinging wide open for Hoffman’s next adventure.
Nevertheless, debuting helmer Julien Leclercq knows his way around a CGI-amped action set piece. Highlights include the credit sequence shootout, a factory floor foot race and not one, but two close-quarters (and fully clothed) fistfights choreographed by Figlarz, who also blocked stunts for “The Bourne Identity.” Balance of thesp talent is fine, with Dupontel a newly-minted action anti-hero and Keller looking at a genre-fueled career revival should she choose to go that route.
Tech package is aces, led by steely palette of Swiss-born d.p. Thomas Hardmeier and some canny product placements imagining the way popular brand-name objects might look and act a dozen years from now.
Per recent trade reports, Leclercq, fiercely wooed by ten-percenteries, is adapting Franck Thilliez’ recent Gaul bestseller “The Forest of Shadows” into sophomore outing helmer calls “a cross between ‘Misery’ and ‘The Shining.'”