It kicks off in central Paris with its quarry, rich company chairman ‘Stan’ Graff (Yvan Attal) in full flight: dropping arrogant asides to his colleagues as he prepares to accompany the President of the Republic overseas, then dropping in briefly on his mistress in their secret flat before dropping a small fortune on a lengthier visit to the poker tables. When a Marseille-based gang kidnaps him the following morning, his company looks good for coming up with the €50 million ransom. But as the media, police and interior ministry interfere, his firm gets cold feet, the unions balk and his family’s sense of shock increases, his neck gets closer and closer to the chopping block.
Belvaux, aided by elegant work from cinematographer Pierre Milon, orchestrates an extensive and dove-tailing cast, the relay of information, dramatic police chases and swift changes of pace and negotiating stance with old-fashioned Melvillian sang froid and teasing emotional restraint. As we constantly intercut to a disintegrating Graff, the ironies of the unfortunate man’s menacing predicament are allowed to quietly compound (if not settle) in a pleasing counterpoint to the frenzied action outside. It’s obvious Belvaux is having fun in his impassive portrait of a poor little rich man undone by not only fortune and fate but his own misdeeds and blind arrogance; but the director is never so indulgent as to spoil what is a finely mounted thriller.