By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Soccer player gets revenge.
Francois (Patrick Dewaere) plays soccer (football) for the local amateur team in the French town where he lives. One day, while the rich owner of the team (Jean Bouise) watches, Francois has a physical altercation with the team’s star player Berthier (Patrick Floersheim), which immediately gets the owner and the rest of his teammates to turn on him. Not only does Francois get kicked off the squad, but he loses his factory job too. Francois then gets accused of rape in a crime that was actually committed by Berthier, but the police manipulate the evidence so Francois goes to jail instead. It’s only later when the team bus gets into an accident that Francois is released from prison so he can help them win, which he does, but he also has a very creative plan that he enacts on those who wronged him.
After directing the highly successful Black and White in Color, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film for 1976, director Jean-Jacques Annaud decided to take another stab at social satire. For the most part the film works well and is filled with a lot of intriguing elements. The best part is the way it pokes fun at the fans, who are just regular people that become so obsessed with their team winning that they lose sight of everything else that is important while clinging to the misguided notion that if their team achieves victory then that will somehow make up for all of life’s other transgressions.
Dewaere excels in his usual outsider role and watching him climb up some precarious apartment building walls and at one point even pull his way up a scaffold in his effort to visit his lady friends is entertaining in itself. Dorothee Jemma is attractive as the woman who initially accuses him of rape then retracts it and the side-story dealing with the quirky romance that ensues between them is enjoyable and better than the main one.
However, like with Annaud’s first film, I didn’t find this to be quite as entertaining as all the other critics seemed to. There are certainly some amusing moments and the script by Francis Veber is highly unpredictable, but in the end it doesn’t pack the intended punch. I think the main reason for this is the fact that the townspeople who screw Francois over are just too one-dimensional. They behave like unbridled jerks without ever realizing how hypocritical they really are, which makes their ultimate comeuppance not as satisfying because I could never believe that they were real people and instead just poorly crafted caricatures.
Alternate Title: Hothead (American reissue)
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: February 14, 1979
Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Studio: Gaumont International
Available: VHS (Dubbed), DVD (Region 2), Blu-ray (Multi-region) (Subtitled)