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by Scott Weinberg

"Scorsese wannabe from France's garment district."
3 stars

Comparisons to Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets" run rampant throughout the marketing materials for Frédéric Balekdjian's "Gamblers" (aka Les Mauvais joueurs), but all I could spot was one major likeness: The flick deals with a pig-headed young delinquent who takes great pains to annoy the very street thugs he should be trying to placate. Meanwhile, one of the more sensitive thugs tries to keep the kid out of trouble -- and has very little success in doing so.

Clocking in at a scant 84 minutes and deftly avoiding all the grit, mood, and atmosphere of the classic crime flick it so desperately wants to emulate, Gamblers is a dry and fairly uneventful little street drama ... but at least it's short.

The setting is the Paris garment district, where low-end French criminals rub elbows with the teeming masses of illegal Chinese immigrants. One such "illegal," a snot-nosed and lazy kid called Yuen, wants nothing to do with his French "protectors," and will stop at nothing to escape their influence. Unfortunately, those thugs have a financial interest in Yuen remaining complacent, so it's only a matter of time before someone gets shot. Vahé is the one kindhearted crook who tries to keep the peace between his French colleagues and the Chinese youth, but (of course) his influence doesn't really amount to a hill of beans.

There's also a meandering romantical subplot involving Vahé and Yuen's estranged sister, and while this divergence offers as explanation as to why Vahé cares so darn much -- it's not a particularly effective subplot, which means it feels a lot more like expositional filler than anything else.

Gamblers rattles through its patently familiar crime-flick clichés without even a cursory glance towards something fresh or unexpected. Director Balekdjian exhibits a solid eye for grimy alleyways and dank basements, but his visual flair is attached to a one-note plot structure that goes precisely where you think it will ... and fast.

I don't know if French made-for-cable flicks are a lot like American made-for-cable flicks, but that's precisely what Gamblers feels like: a semi-interesting yet seriously familiar crime drama that'll capably fill 90 bored minutes without actively impressing you in any real way.

(© Review reprinted from DVDTalk, with permission from the author (me) and the DVDT management. For the full DVD specs on this particular movie, please visit and get friendly with the search bar.)

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originally posted: 05/12/06 07:06:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 26-Apr-2006



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