It’s easy to see why Netflix wanted to reteam actor Omar Sy and director Louis Leterrier in something, anything, given the popularity of their previous collaboration, the French thriller series “Lupin.” But U.S. viewers may be a tad puzzled by the streamer’s decision to green-light as their follow-up a popcorn movie as nondescript as “The Takedown” — a sequel to “On the Other Side of the Tracks” (“De l’autre côté du périph”), a lightweight 2012 French-produced buddy-cop action-comedy that, whatever its popularity in its home territory, received only (very) limited release by The Weinstein Company in this county.
On the other hand: Leterrier — whose credits also include “Now You See Me” and the first two entries in the “Transporter” franchise — has just this week been given the keys to “Fast X,” replacing the creatively distanced Justin Lin as director for the next installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise. So maybe Netflix might reap some unforeseen benefits from a slightly enhanced curiosity factor. Maybe.
“On the Other Side of the Tracks” — which can be tracked down, in case you’re interested, on The Roku Channel — introduced Sy’s Ousmane Diakhité, a wisecracking, rule-breaking Black cop in the Paris suburb of Bobigny who obviously views Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley as a role model (his cellphone ringtone is “Axel F,” the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme), and more or less attaches himself to François Monge (Laurent Lafitte), a careerist white Paris Crime Unit investigator, when the wife of a powerful businessman is found brutally murdered near Ousmane’s housing project.
It would require a few more distinguishing features for “On the Other Side of the Tracks,” directed by David Charhon (“The Last Mercenary”), to qualify as generic. Still, the film does offer some unexpectedly pointed observations about racial and socioeconomic divisions in France. A smirky interlude in a sex club is undeniably funny. And there’s effective interplay between Sy as a street-smart single father whose smile vanishes when confronted with condescending racism, and Lafitte as a self-satisfied narcissist from a well-to-do family whose Don Juanish tendencies may be more of an impediment to promotion than his less-than-stellar police work.
Not knowing any of this beforehand may diminish your enjoyment of “The Takedown,” since the sequel often makes vague allusions to events and plot developments in the earlier, and better, movie. But the two lead characters remain pretty much the same here, even though their respective status has changed. Monge still is a good cop, albeit not nearly as good as he thinks he is, and his chronic skirt-chasing would be offensive if he weren’t so often the, ahem, butt of the jokes. (A co-worker taunts him as “too old for that hipster beard and metrosexual pants.”) But Ousmane now is chief of the Criminal Division in Paris — and has more authority than Monge as they team for a murder investigation that brings them to a provincial town in the French Alps.
The last time they were together — more than a decade ago, screenwriter Stéphane Kazandjian duly emphasizes — Ousmane had to guide the whitebread Monge through the mean streets of Bobigny. For this outing, Monge is the one who’s on familiar ground, steering his partner (whether he wants to be steered or not) through a close-knit community that, while not openly racist, is a good deal short of welcoming when it comes to non-white outsiders.
One thing leads to another, ploddingly, as Ousmane and Monge turn over rocks and uncloset skeletons. The victim whose grisly demise brings them there in the first place turns out to have been a drug trafficker fond of preparing methamphetamine in his mother’s barn. The local mayor is a right-wing politico with national ambitions and a nationalistic credo. And a sizable segment of the populace appears to gotten inspiration and fashion tips from the crowd that stormed Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 two years ago.
All of which makes “The Takedown” sound a lot more interesting than it is. To be fair, though, Leterrier manages a few modestly exciting chase scenes, including one that begins in a laser tag course, continues through a bowling alley and a go-kart track, and ends in a crowded supermarket. And his two leads are agreeably amusing and for the most part engaging throughout the film. You shouldn’t be surprised if their characters are played by Kevin Hart and Jason Sudeikis in an Americanized remake. On the other hand, you should be very surprised if anyone ever goes to the trouble of producing such a remake.
“The Takedown” is available now on Netflix.