Films by former cops are legion; those by ex-cons are few. Judging by “De force,” from Gallic desperado-turned-director Frank Henry, this won’t change anytime soon. An impressive roster of thesps, led by Isabelle Adjani and Eric Cantona, sleepwalk through this subpar crimer about a tough-as-nails policewoman who needs to illegally break out a jailed heavy unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement on a major case. Late-October title tanked locally, but star-hungry Euro channels could still bite.
It’s all downhill after a twitchy, tense and music-free opening, in which a Corsican criminal mastermind (Simon Abkarian) stages an attack on an armored car. Officer Damico (Adjani) gets carte blanche to round up his gang and calls on jailbird acquaintance Makarov (Cantona), who (initially) refuses to help. Setup is neat, down to Damico’s worries about her juvenile-delinquent son (Pierre Stevenin, terrible), but as the plot grows increasingly absurd, the film proves incapable of sustaining any kind of urgency or tension. The ensemble, which includes distaff stars Anne Consigny and Linh-Dan Pham, seems more drowsy than world-weary, while the ’80s-sounding score further slows down the proceedings. Look is perfectly generic; title means “By Force.”