Bastards, aka Les Salauds (★★ Empire Review)

BastardsSquareA merchant seaman (Vincent Lindon) returns home to France to investigate the causes of his brother-in-law’s suicide. But the more he delves into the mystery, the more unpleasant truths emerge.

Claire Denis, auteur of such acclaimed French films as Beau Travail and White Material, wades into murkier waters with this Stygian revenger’s tragedy, in which a merchant seaman (Vincent Lindon) abandons ship to investigate the reasons behind his brother-in-law’s suicide, and the hospitalization of his troubled niece – then plot the downfall of those responsible. Sadly, the potential for an involving thriller is squandered, along with a talented cast, the fractured chronology feels forced and counter-productive, and the resulting film is so low-key, it’s almost inaudible to the human ear. Bleakness is for its own sake is at best tedious, at worst – as in this case – bordering on the exploitative.

VERDICT
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Denis’ latest is more like undercooked leftovers, with a bitter aftertaste. ★★

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