Intended as a follow-up to writer-director Albert ter Heerdt’s 2004 hit “Shouf shouf habibi!,” a mostly lighthearted look at relations between ethnic Dutch and a growing Moroccan-heritage minority, “Kicks” took a more serious developmental turn in the wake of national shock over Dutch helmer Theo van Gogh’s assassination by an Islamic extremist. Still, it’s a palatable mix of humor and drama that resists the heavy-handed race crisis melodramatics of something like “Crash.” That relative understatement might actually count against it in the international marketplace, though Euro theatrical and TV sales should be healthy.
Web of characters reps a wide range of beliefs and tolerances on both sides of this particular dividing line, the core incident being a cop’s fatal shooting of a Moroccan youth. Alerted to an apparent break-in at a community center, two police officers find teens hiding behind a dumpster; panicked, the teens leap out, one flashing what looks like a handgun. Thus, police veteran Frank (Marcel Musters) fires at aspiring rapper Redouan (Iliass Ojja), while Redouan’s friend Karim (Ilias Addab) flees.
Already wary of mainstream authority, the emigre population is enraged by Redouan’s death, demanding justice. But it’s a tricky matter, not least because Frank’s partner is Moroccan-Dutch rookie Aaliyah (Maryham Hassouni), who knows Frank’s racist but can’t be sure prejudice played any role in the split-second decision to pull trigger.
While Karim and others agitate for violent protest, assimilationists like Redouan’s older brother Said (Mimoun Oaissa), who runs a boxing gym for local youth, urge them to let the law run its course. This gets Said branded a traitor in some quarters, making him suddenly uncomfortable with his white girlfriend (Chantal Janzen). Aaliyah’s conservative father considers her fiancee Marouan (Mohammed Chaara) similarly two-faced for joining the Dutch Army — though Marouan proves to have some very traditional ideas of his own once Aaliyah informs him she won’t be a virgin bride.
Other characters in the mix include Wouter (Roeland Fernhout), a filmmaker who claims to want to make a first feature relevant to the “immigrant situation.” His flighty blonde g.f. Kim (Hadewych Minis) impulsively tours the ‘hood and acquires a guide (Mimoun Ouled Radi) ill-equipped to grasp the glibness of her interest — or her flirting. And there are still more characters, and story strands, on tap.
While the pic is eventful and provides each thread with its own catharsis, ter Heerdt doesn’t feel the need to push things until they explode in the usual tragic-cum-healing fashion. Instead, life goes on — though hopefully, the participants here will have learned something.
Use of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on the soundtrack at the end strikes the pic’s only too-obvious note.
Perfs are expert and production package well-tuned, with a quasi-verite look.