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Standard TV cop stuff overripe with homophobic subtexts pretty much sums up “Partners,” Frederic Mermoud’s provoking yet not provocative feature debut, about a couple of investigators looking into the murder of a teen hustler whose g.f. has gone missing. The real crime is that such a fine cast is wasted on this deliberately sordid tale, which looks just as smallscreen as it feels, though abundant nudity may hamper all but Euro satcaster and cable play. Fests are unlikely to find room in their lineups, but general release in home countries might pick up some coin.

Mermoud weaves between the recent past and present, as cold detective Herve (Gilbert Melki) and his unfulfilled partner Karine (Emmanuelle Devos, miscast) explore an unsavory male prostitution ring. Some time earlier, charismatic charmer Vincent (Cyril Descours) and high schooler Rebecca (Nina Meurisse) hit it off, and even when he confesses to being a gay-for-pay hustler, she decides to stick with him, joining him with clients to feel what it’s like. The script revels in making the gay world look perverted; only Meurisse, with an extraordinary inner glow and mega screen power, comes through relatively unscathed.

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  • Production: A Pyramide (France)/Vega Distribution (Switzerland) release of a Tabo Tabo Films (France)/Saga Prod. (Switzerland) production, with the participation of Rhone Alpes Cinema, France 3 Cinema, Canal Plus, CineCinema. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Tonie Marshall, Damien Couvreur. Co-producer, Robert Boner. Directed by Frederic Mermoud. Screenplay, Mermoud, Pascal Arnold.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Thomas Hardmeier; editor, Sarah Anderson; music, Gregoire Hetzel; production designer, Francois Renaud Labarthe; costume designer, Dorothee Lissac. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 8, 2009. Original title: Complices. French dialogue. Running time: 93 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Gilbert Melki, Emmanuelle Devos, Nina Meurisse, Cyril Descours, Joana Preiss, Jeremy Kapone.
  • Music By: