A desperate hubby tries to free his wrongly accused wife from prison in “Anything For Her,” a taut Gallic thriller where “anything” sometimes means tossing plausibility completely out the window. Debut feature from writer-helmer Fred Cavaye kicks off jarringly but then uses sharp editing and camerawork to maintain a pulsing pace, while stars Vincent Lindon and Diane Kruger deliver mostly compelling perfs. Still, discerning auds may find the unlikely chain of events too contrived by far, and the Dec. 3 local release has only garnered moderate returns in its first frame. Some overseas action looks likely.
Story uses a flashback structure to explain how a middle-aged professor, Julien (Lindon), sees his life turn from bliss to disaster when his gorgeous wife, Lisa (Kruger), gets arrested for a murder she didn’t commit. Three years later, Julien realizes his countless legal appeals are useless and decides to bust Lisa out of jail before she serves the rest of her 20-year sentence.
Early reels cleverly insert clues regarding the hows and whys of Julien’s predicament, and for a moment it seems Lisa may actually be guilty. Once the record is set straight, the remainder of the narrative focuses on the unlikely possibility of a literature teacher taking on both the French criminal justice system and the thug underworld, the script often resorting to freakish coincidences or downright farfetchedness.
Closing 20 minutes show the daring breakout in detail, and the action is both well paced and realistic. An earlier shootout at a drug dealer’s stash pad is similarly intense: The sequence is so well staged it seems churlish to ask how Julien suddenly managed to become an expert gun handler.
Suspenseful and stylized direction by first-timer Cavaye is reminiscent of the recent France-set thriller “Taken,” with Liam Neeson, though the latter pic did a better job at justifying its protag’s mercenary capabilities. Both films present a convincingly creepy, grittier version of contempo Paris, beautifully shot here by d.p. Alain Duplantier (“The Ring Finger”).
Lindon, whose haggard visage and bulky frame recall Jean-Paul Belemondo sans the wisecracking, blends in perfectly with the collection of lowlifes he encounters on his one-man mission. Kruger is unsettling in the prison sequences, while her killer looks provide at least one viable excuse for Julien’s outrageous behavior.
Score by Klaus Badelt (“Constantine”) is tense without overdoing the thriller motifs. Production design by Philippe Chiffre (“Tell No One”) mixes icy municipal interiors with underlit nighttime streets.