A policeman’s lot is not a happy one: Consider the flatfoots assigned to Paris’s Child Protection Unit, where the daily grind consists of processing a steady stream of child molesters and abusive parents, while also attending to the fragile emotional needs of victims barely into their teens. The job wears down patience and spirit, and tensions are consistently high. More than most of his colleagues, the self-righteous Fred (Joey Starr) seems primed to start a shouting match with anyone in sight, be it his take-no-shit spouse or the shy photographer (cowriter-director Maïwenn) who’s been sent to document the division’s exploits.
If there’s one thing this Cannes-feted drama portrays incisively, it’s the porousness of the characters’ existence: Work bleeds into life and life into work, wreaking havoc on their respective moral compasses. The rest is overly familiar for any cop-fiction obsessive, yet still frequently compelling: Jittery digital cinematography slathers a patina of “real” onto the reel (there’s a gaspworthy moment when a mother on the run drops her baby), and the plot is overstuffed with enough incident—higher-up corruption! office catfight! abortion!—to fill out a three-season television series. Unfortunate, then, that Polisse builds to one of the most hilariously misguided climaxes ever conceived; let’s just say that this soapy symphony of squalor literally doesn’t stick the landing.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich