We all pine to be someone else (even just for a few hours in the dark sanctuary of a movie theater), and a lot of us undoubtedly wish we could be Romain Duris. The French actor possesses an enviable Cro-Mag handsomeness and talent to spare—the kind of looks-plus-chops combo that could, say, sell a Talented Mr. Ripley–ish thriller even once things take a turn for the ludicrous. Duris’s character, Paul, always wanted to be a professional shutterbug; instead, the poor guy had to make due with being a successful lawyer, having a swank house in the Parisian suburbs and a marriage to France’s Debra Winger look-alike, Marina Foïs. A telltale wine bottle supplied by his good-looking next-door neighbor (Eric Ruf), however, suggests infidelity on the part of Paul’s spouse. A confrontation ensues; things don’t end well. Soon, Paul has a new name, a new job as a photojournalist in Belgrade and the artistically fulfilling existence he’s always dreamed of. So what if he has to blow up the occasional boat or car to keep his secret safe?
Director Eric Lartigau knows how to condense information, via jump cuts and blackout fades, in a way that keeps things whizzing along, as well as winding up the will-he-get-caught? suspense with the precision of a watchmaker. Catherine Denueve and A Prophet's Niels Arestrup show up just for kicks as well, but The Big Picture is really Duris’s picture; the actor toggles effortlessly between arrogant, feral, remorseful and ruthless as the plot throws one curveball after the next. Yet even he can’t fully salvage a last act that clumsily tries to sell the notion that white-knight altruism is the ultimate creative satisfaction. In a film full of so many well-executed hairpin turns, such a wrong veering to the left stands out all the more.
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