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DVD Review: Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi, 2010)

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In 2006, French-born Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb spun a fascinating yarn with Indigènes (aka Days of Glory), a tale of four Algerian men who join the French army to fight the Nazis in World War II — as well as fight the prejudice Algerians faced from the French powers that ruled their country. The film won several awards internationally, and even received an Oscar nod in the US (but lost to the German-made The Lives of Others). Four years later, Bouchareb reunited several of the film’s cast and crew to bring us a follow-up feature, Hors-la-loi (better known as Outside the Law to English-speaking audiences).

The film isn’t a sequel in the sense that all of the returning actors reprise their original roles. Rather, this is a new tale set in the days after WWII, wherein three Algerian brothers (Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, and Sami Bouajila) who wage a war within the borders of France in seek their country’s independence. We follow the plight of these siblings over the course of several decades — allotting the wardrobe department and production designers to admirably recreate the sights and sounds of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s in the process — while giving Bouchareb a chance to pay his respect to the works of Sergio Leone, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and even Sam Mendes.

Ultimately, Outside the Law (which also received an Oscar nod) is a somewhat unfocused feature. There are some grand moments to be found here (particularly a shootout towards the finale), but I found that most of the film’s other elements — especially its characters — lacked any depth whatsoever. Overall, I’d recommend any fans of Days of Glory should at least check it out, but not to go out of their way to see it. And, should you pick up the Palisades Tartan DVD release of this 2010 hit, do not watch this movie with the English-language soundtrack. I didn’t care that much for the film in the first place, but the English-dubbing on this DVD is just plain awful.

Palisades Tartan’s DVD release also includes several special features, including a Making-Of featurette, some deleted scenes, interviews with Rachid Bouchareb and select cast members, and a number of trailers.

In short: Outside the Law may have been a winner in many international film festivals, but I found the story to be all-too routine and its delivery to be rather wearisome.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.