The discredited and alcoholic Detective Schneider (Daniel Auteuil), a washed-up Marseilles cop, earns a chance at redemption by protecting a woman from the man who killed her parents as he is about to be released from prison.

3
A rewarding character study of a troubled cop.

In 2005, writer-director Oliver Marchal made one of the best crime films of the decade with 36 Quai de Orfeves. It was a bleak, tough and highly emotional piece about friendship, and loyalty, shot through with a complex morality that balanced its yarn about police corruption with a plot that trawled through a lot of angst about how hard it is to be decent and true to moral obligations in a world of compromise. Marchal, an ex-cop, has an eye for spiritual decay and a muse tempered with a black sense of humour that relieves his pain filled scenarios from playing as self-important and pretentious.

He returns to this milieu, and these themes, with his self-effacing attitude intact, once more in Mr 73. In a sense, the film is a kind of unofficial sequel to 36. Once again he has Daniel Auteuil playing a righteous cop beaten down by a code of police practice that leaves scars on his soul and once again he shoots it in a wash of black and blue tones that sets a feverish atmosphere and a relentlessly down beat mood. Still, unlike 36, Mr 73 is more of a character study, and less of a conventional crime thriller. In 36 the through-line of action involved a pursuit of master criminals and cop on cop rivalry.

In this tangled yarn, the narrative circles around the misfortunes of Louis (Auteuil) while taking in old case histories, a serial killer, a victim looking for some closure, as well as complex chicanery involving internecine warfare amongst Marsellies policing elite. Louis is nursing himself through a family tragedy involving his wife and daughter via alcohol. Early in the movie he hijacks a bus after arguing with the driver and Marchal throughout makes a lot out of the way Louis’ self-medication affects and afflicts his judgement.

Once the various plots and sub-plots are buffed away Mr 73 is essentially the story of a suicidal character looking for a graceful and dignified way-out. Marchal, despite his (apparently) accurate observations on the tortuous process of justice in his native France, is a romantic and Mr 73 ends in an operatic climax that settles all scores and guarantees a worthwhile legacy for his fractured hero.

Auteuil, always fine, gives a performance of great complexity – Louis is an unapologetic arsehole, but he’s fascinating company. Auteuil gets terrific support from Olivia Bonamy as Justine, who is haunted by the death of her family and fears the killer, whose release is imminent, will pursue her, once out. Veteran Philippe Nahon plays this 'monster’ will a chilling glee.

Not as flat out compelling as 36, Mr 73 is ultimately rewarding, since you sense in its emotional details a genuine moral tumult. It turns out that the film is based on the case that made Marchal quit the force in 1981. The title refers to a gun that was French police standard issue thirty years ago.

Picture and sound are excellent and there are no extras aside from a pretty good trailer.

Details

MA15+
1 hour 59 min

Genres