Outside the Law
Time Out says
Bouchareb invents three Algerian brothers who we meet as kids in the 1920s when they’re forcibly evicted from their land. We jump to May 1945 as a conflict breaks out between police and protestors in Sétif, leading to thousands of deaths. In the chaos, we meet Saïd (Jamel Debbouze), Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) and Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), now adults. Time shifts again: Saïd moves to Paris, living in a shanty town while ducking and diving in Pigalle, Abdelkader is jailed in Algeria and Messaoud fights for the French army in Indochina.
The film fully enters noir-ish Melville territory in the late 1950s, when Abdelkader becomes a leader of the Paris branch of the FLN, Messaoud joins his brother in the movement and less political Saïd graduates from running prostitutes to running a cabaret club. It’s the cold lack of glamour of Melville’s film that Bouchareb co-opts, as Abdelkader becomes a steely operator, prepared to turn on family for the good of the movement.
Bouchareb strives hard to reclaim the work of the FLN as an honourable and necessary political movement, and his referencing of ‘Army of Shadows’ is more than a stylistic choice: it’s a plea for the FLN to be acknowledged as facing choices as vital and conflicted as anyone who fought in the noble ranks of the resistance.
Cast and crew