A gripping police noir, LE PETIT LIEUTENANT tells the story of Antoine, an ambitious young cop from the provinces who joins a plainclothes crime unit in Paris. Antoine spends his days eagerly awaiting his first assignment, drinking with his fellow detectives and developing an unlikely relationship with his superior, a veteran policewoman with a troubled past. But when the body of a drifter is found murdered along the Seine, a seemingly routine investigation suddenly turns violent and forever changes all their lives.
"An impeccably wrought contemporary police story." Stephen Holden, The New York Times
As long as there are cops and criminals, the police procedural will persist. The subgenre appeals to those who truly believe the devil is in the details. In his fourth feature, writer/director Xavier Beauvois may not reinvent the form, but he gets the details right. Though he hones in on one seemingly minor murder, Beauvois is mostly concerned with the plainclothes cops trying to solve it. As the story begins, Antoine (Jalil Lespert, Human Resources) has just been transferred from Normandy to Paris. He couldn't be happier, even if his wife prefers the country. Antoine loves her dearly, but he loves his job just as much. His co-workers include the Jane Tennison-like Inspector Vaudieu (César winner Nathalie Baye), veteran cop Mallet (Antoine Chappey), and Muslim cop Solo (Roschdy Zem). For the most part, they get along pretty well, especially Antoine and Vaudieu, who develops maternal feelings towards the rookie. By depicting these flics as fully-rounded individuals, then showing what happens when the worst possible scenario plays out, Beauvois generates an impact far greater than if he had presented them as stereotypical losers or superheroes. There's nothing trendy about Le Petit Lieutenant, nor is it an homage to the golden age of the procedural (Bullitt, The French Connection, etc.), but the filmmaker's attention to detail--the thrill of the chase vs. the drudgery of desk work--makes Le Petit Lieutenant the best procedural in years. It accomplishes more in 101 minutes than most cop shows do in an entire season. --Kathleen C. Fennessy