Requiem For A Killer (Requiem pour une tueuse)
France (2011) Dir. Jérôme Le Gris
Sometimes it is quite remarkable when all the right ingredients are in place and there is a pretty straightforward recipe to follow yet the end result is a rather disastrous dish which leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Lucrece (Melanie Laurent) is the best assassin in Europe, under the tutelage of The Armenian (Tcheky Karyo), but wants to quit now her eight year-old daughter (Clara Ruscon) is starting to ask questions about her regular disappearances. She is asked to do one more job, to take out Scottish Opera singer Alexander Child (Christopher Stills) who owns some a land a British oil company wants to get their hands on.
Meanwhile the person requesting this hit, a crooked priest (Philippe Morier-Genoud), is known to the police but is proving evasive. However they have intel on the hit so an agent, Rico (Clovis Cornillac), has been despatched to thwart the assassination, unaware the hitman is a woman. And to ensure Lucrece behaves herself, the priest has sent an insurance policy of his own in the form of Xavier de Ferrières (Xavier Gallais).
Director Jérôme Le Gris intended for this film to be a modern day Hitchcock thriller and as we can see, the constitute elements are there for a gripping game of cat and mouse among a small cadre of assigned killers. Unfortunately what was missing was a decent script and of course Hitchcock’s genius touch which Le Gris couldn’t even begin to emulate in a million years.
A second possible influence could also be Agatha Christie due to the location being an expansive Swiss chateau hosting a classical concert, and all the key players staying under the one roof. So how does Lucrece plan to infiltrate Child’s party and not be exposed? As luck would have it, she is a gifted contralto as we learn at the start of the film, so she can fit right in as singer Anna Krub who has two weeks to off Child before the show.
Similarly Rico is a classical guitarist allowing him to hide out in the orchestra, although the main piece is Handel’s Messiah which I don’t think has a guitar part. Xavier is slotted in on the admin side, handling the arrangements and such and MC-ing the big night. But when Lucrece begins to dither and doesn’t accomplish her mission at the first opportunity, the Armenian shows up acting as her agent to help her along.
It should be pointed out that if you look at the DVD cover (see above) it shows Lucrece holding a smoking gun; this is erroneously misleading as she is in fact an expert in poisoning! It is almost a sign that this film is doomed to fail because the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and it doesn’t stop with the deceptive marketing either.
The script is heavily flawed with plot holes – Rico is supposed to be on the run after an unexplained misdemeanour yet is easily found and even admits as much when his boss confronts him – and barely any character development beyond the expected romance between Lucrece and Child. If we knew something about Rico, Xavier, the crooked priest and a bit more about Lucrece then we’d be more invested in the drama side of things.
Aside from some last minute exposition regarding Lucrece’s father from the Armenian we are told nothing. None of the characters’ motives are made clear enough for them to do anything other than to fulfil the thinly drawn versions of the roles given to them. This is a twist which occurs in the third act but it is so shoddily execute that it doesn’t quite register as the significant development it is.
There are at least three occasions involving murder attempts through poisoning where the tension needed to be sky high but the scenes pass by without incident; this may be because the idea was to illustrate Lucrece having second thoughts or perhaps expose her as lousy assassin unworthy of her lofty and fearsome reputation. This could also be levied at Rico who was also apparently hot stuff, but for Xavier, I couldn’t tell you a thing about him.
Pacing is also an issue which is either a result of the 88 minute run time or something forced by the uneven editing. Scenes jump from one to another with a nervous abruptness while scenes where something sinister and genuinely thrilling is about to occur fade to black right at the crucial point of the action. Matters aren’t helped either by the excessive amount of downtime centred around the music rehearsals and supposed personal interactions which lack any romantic sizzle.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the script and presentation were so lacking the cast is also wasted here. With her stock rising on the international front after working with Quentin Tarantino, Melanie Laurent needed a follow up project to further her reputation but this role gives her nothing to work with. Looking bored and tired with bags under her eyes, the usual radiance she emits is gone, the only time she is animated is when miming to the operatic singing.
Clovis Cornillac does nothing but frown throughout the entire film leaving it to Tcheky Karyo – who played a similar role in La Femme Nikita – to try and inject some life into this with a suitably shady turn as Lucrece’s boss. Christopher Stills is the son of music legend Stephen Stills but sadly there doesn’t seem to have been any charisma passed down from father to son judging from this performance.
I don’t know which Hitchcock Le Gris had in mind to pay homage to with Requiem For A Killer but the evidence suggests it wasn’t Alfred. He would never had made such a banal and shapeless mess out of such potentially interesting plot.