×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Death for Sale

There's no honor among thieves -- or in the police department, either -- in the moody neo-noir "Death for Sale," the uneven third feature from Moroccan helmer Faouzi Bensaidi ("A Thousand Months").

With:
With: Fehd Benchemsi, Fouad Labiad, Mouchcine Malzi, Imane Mechrafi, Nezha Rahil, Faouzi Bensaidi. (Arabic dialogue)

There’s no honor among thieves — or in the police department, either — in the moody neo-noir “Death for Sale,” the uneven third feature from Moroccan helmer Faouzi Bensaidi (“A Thousand Months”). The episodic, leisurely paced tale uneasily combines realistic observations about the changing social and political climate of Tetouan, a picturesque port city surrounded by mountains, with the visually playful genre experiments of the director’s second feature, “WWW: What a Wonderful World.” Downbeat subject matter and oddly conflicting tone signal that further fest play is the mostly likely form of distribution outside the pic’s co-producing countries.

The tale centers on petty thief Malik (Fehd Benchemsi), 26, who pals around with aggressive, drug-dealing ex-con Allal (Fouad Labiad), 30, and fleet-footed pickpocket Soufiane (Mouchcine Malzi), 18. Malik’s mad passion for high-priced prostitute Dounia (Imane Mechrafi), rendered in sensual, ultra-romantic, narrative-stopping images, wreaks havoc on his life and other relationships.

With a police crackdown under way in town, the nightclub where Dounia works is raided, and she gets thrown in the slammer. Malik decides to feed insider information to the corrupt Inspector Debbouz (helmer Bensaidi, once again a deadpan villain) to facilitate the release of his beloved, and starts by planting drugs in the bakery belonging to his uncle/stepfather, whom he blames for the suicide of his beloved sister (Nezha Rahil, the key thesp in Bensaidi’s two previous films).

As newly flush informant Malik and Dounia bed down in a seedy hotel on the police department’s dime, Allal decides to cool his heels outside town, and Soufiane falls in with a group of fundamentalists, but soon the lure of one last heist brings the three former friends together again.

The grippingly realistic digressions into Malik’s family life and the fundamentalist training camp in the hills make for far more compelling viewing than the stylized noir theatrics of the crime-caper story strand. While Bensaidi’s tinkering with genre conventions worked well as part of the self-conscious artifice of “WWW,” it proves disruptive here.

Raw thesping from the four young newcomers playing the marginalized outsiders lacks the focused energy and charisma that would enable them to nail their parts or make viewers care about their characters. By contrast, the alluring, technically rigorous craft package has Euro polish.

Popular on Variety

Death for Sale

Belgium-France-Morocco-Germany-United Arab Emirates

Production: An Entre Chien et Loup, Agora Film, Liaison Cinematographique production with the support of the Center Cinematographique Marocain, Sanad -- Abu Dhabi Film Festival, World Cinema Fund, Visions Sud Est, L'Atelier Cannes, Arte, the Belgian Government Tax Shelter, Mormal Philippe, Lorto. (International sales: Urban Distribution, Montreuil, France.) Produced by Sebastian Delloye, Souad Lamriki, Benedicte Bellocq. Directed, written by Faouzi Bensaidi.

Crew: Camera (color), Marc-Andre Batigne; editor, Danielle Anezin; music, Richard Horowitz; production designer, Itaf Benjelloun; costume designer, Nezha Rahil; sound (Dolby Digital), Patrice Mendez, Gert Janssen, Luc Thomas. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 15, 2011. (Also in Abu Dhabi Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 117 MIN.

With: With: Fehd Benchemsi, Fouad Labiad, Mouchcine Malzi, Imane Mechrafi, Nezha Rahil, Faouzi Bensaidi. (Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Germany's Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4

    German Indie Studio Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4 Blocks' Producer W&B TV

    Leonine has acquired “Dark” producer W&B TV from Endemol Shine. Fledgling German studio Leonine had already bought Wiedemann & Berg Film and established itself as a Munich-based movies, TV, and digital production and distribution group. It has now added the W&B TV unit to its roster. The production company is behind several big German dramas [...]

  • iHuman

    Cinephil Acquires AI-Themed Political Thriller Documentary 'iHuman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tel Aviv-based Cinephil has acquired worldwide rights to Tonje Hessen Schei’s (“Drone”) “iHuman,” a political thriller documentary about artificial intelligence, power and social control. U.S.-based sales agent ro*co films is representing North America on the film, which will have its world premiere in the Frontlight section of Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival. “iHuman” follows the [...]

  • 'Feast of the Seven Fishes' Review:

    Film Review: 'Feast of the Seven Fishes'

    Early on in “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” two characters debate the optimal way to decorate a house for Christmas. One favors an “understated” approach, with white lights and little more; the other argues that the holidays are no time for subtlety, advocating green, red and gold sparkle as far as the semi-blinded eye can [...]

  • Queen & Slim

    AFI Fest Film Review: 'Queen & Slim'

    Going to the movies can feel a lot like agreeing to a blind date: It’s normal to feel a little wary — but also a bit excited — at the potential before agreeing to spend two hours with characters you don’t know. If the film is any good, it wins you over early on, enough [...]

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content