Ah, the work week. Most of the time you’re just trying to make ends meet while working through the daily grind. Of course, it’s possible you might have a job that’s anything but ordinary, but you still put in the needed hours in order to make enough to scrape by.
In terms of professions, drug dealing isn’t exactly the most honest or legal gig in the world, but it’s a relatively straightforward job. You obtain the product from a source, usually the producer of said product, and sell it to the client for a profit. Easy, right? Well, if something goes wrong in the process of delivering a certain amount of drugs worth quite a hefty amount, the results usually end up messy for the dealer. A very bloody and painful kind of mess. Still, a bloody mess can be a very entertaining watch.
That’s what you can expect in Dealer, the French-language feature film debut of director Jean Luc Herbulot. The film follows Dan (Dan Bronchinson), a middle-aged drug dealer and extortionist who’s working to make enough money selling drugs to get himself, his estranged wife and six-year-old daughter out of the most crime ridden section of Paris to the pearly white beaches of Australia. He’s a professional criminal, with an emphasis on the professional. He knows that a for a drug deal to go smoothly, the dealer and client need to have a common understanding with each other. No bullshit and no excuses because either one will make a deal go sour. A sour deal typically ends up being bad for both the client and the dealer. That’s exactly what happens when Dan tries to make a big score involving the selling of a very nasty French drug lord’s bag of coke. As Dan tries to scramble to make up for a series of unfortunate events, the lives of his wife and daughter are under the careful watch of the brutal drug lord, Delo (Henry Bruno).
Dealer is very reminiscent of British filmmaker Guy Ritchie’s early work. Much like Ritchie’s movies, Dealer doesn’t show the opulent criminal lifestyle that one has seen in movies like The Godfather or Casino. No, Dealer lets its audience know that a life of crime is nasty and low-paying work. Sure, you can get some serious cash in a short amount of time, but dollars soon to turn to dust when you constantly have to pay off the bigger fish waiting to eat you. Anyone who enjoys films like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two-Smoking Barrels will feel at home while watching Dealer.
When it comes to characters, Dealer offers the typical sort you might find in a crime thriller. Dan may be the protagonist, but he’s anything but a nice guy. Extortion, pimping and dealing are his means of earning the cash to support his lifestyle. He’s the kind of guy that will smile at you one minute and knock your teeth out the next. He’s not exactly likeable, but as his plight continues to worsen, you do start to feel a small measure of sympathy for him. It’s a small amount, but it’s there. The tension ratchets up considerably when the film breaks into a montage of Dan going on a one-man extortion fest in an attempt to make enough money to buy the freedom of his loved ones. You start to feel Dan’s dread when you learn that extorting a bunch of junkies for cash doesn’t exactly yield the most profitable results.
Outside of Dan, you have two other characters of noted. There’s Dan’s coked out and mentally unstable girlfriend, Chris, played by Elsa Madeline. When not coked out of her mind, she spends her free time sleeping with anything walking on two legs. She enjoys teasing Dan and goes out of her way to make his life even more hectic than it already is. Then there’s the film’s villain, Henry Bruno’s Delo. Delo is the diabetes-stricken drug lord of everything cocaine. He likes to joke and make the occasional veiled threat. Whatever you do, don’t get him talking about his pastries. He expresses his disappointment of not being able to enjoy his favorite sweets by torturing anyone who dares to cross him.
Dealer isn’t free of problems though. The first third of the film features an uncomfortable amount of shaky cam. A chase scene involving the title character and three crooked cops might as well have had a giant monster attacking the city at the same time. The camera bobs and weaves so fast that it’s a struggle for your eyes to keep up with the action on screen. It’s distracting and nausea-inducing. It’s not Cloverfield level of incompressible camera movement, but it’s not at all pleasant to watch. Thankfully, the camera remains steady throughout the rest of the picture.
Dealer achieves exactly what it set out to do. It offers plenty of thrills, action and violence to keep you entertained for its relatively short run time of 75-minutes. It’s well worth a watch and definitely a film for a lover of gritty urban crime stories. Bronchinson, Madeline and Henry give strong performances, which immediately capture the attention of the viewer every time they’re on screen. Dealer is raw, unrelenting and entertaining as hell. Give it watch and let the worst scum of the French criminal underworld wash over you. It’s surprisingly refreshing.