A Gang Story
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Olivier Marchal
Starring GÃ©rard Lanvin, TchÃ©ky Karyo, Daniel Duval, Laurent Fernandez, Lionnel Astier, Dimitri Storoge, Patrick Catalifo, FranÃ§ois Levantal
The Weinstein Company
Originally Released: November 10, 2011
One part Godfather, one part Mesrine, A Gang Story is honestly one of the most magnetizing films I’ve been engrossed with. The plot is detailed, but solid – cleverly paced, and strategically told in a manner that will keep you guessing and deliver surprises throughout.
The Lyons Gang, historically a real group of organized criminals in France, is attributed with a number of famous robberies – though the core membership never acknowledged guilt, following a mafia-like code of silence when facing law enforcement authorities. A Gang Story, while it takes some substantial artistic license with the history, is the long-term history of the fellows of the Lyons Gang – a compelling movie that is told across two major plots.
Overall, A Gang Story focuses on two members of the Lyons Gang: the leader (or king, if you will), Momon Vidal (GÃ©rard Lanvin, who astute viewers will recognize from Point Blank), and his right-hand best friend, Serge Suttel (TchÃ©ky Karyo, who made an appearance in The Core). A lifelong bond from childhood, the two form a brotherly bond – that evolves into a life of criminal activity, and establishing the code of silence – not to rat on your brothers-in-arms.
The first major plotline is set during the contemporary era, following Momon as Serge reemerges in his life – and the life of his gang. Serge is arrested, charged, and placed in solitary protection – as he has betrayed another gangster dealing in drug trafficking named Zerbib (Laurent Fernandez). Momon arranges a jailbreak to get Serge out, but finds that his betrayal is far more than any of his gang ever bargained for.
The second plotline follows the establishment of the Lyons Gang, and how it came to be. From their early and lesser criminal days, Momon and Serge eventually fall in with a larger organization dealing with major heists across Europe – promising big money.
But while the jobs are successful, the heists become a form of indentured servitude, with the bosses refusing to pay out. Momon takes the lead, and faces off with his former masters – taking the reins of a new gang that would become known as the Lyons Gang.
The two major plotlines, told in flashback/past-present fashion, initially come across as distant and referential more than anything else.
But as time progresses and more revelations come to light, the two essentially fuse at some point to become one major plot, with very little to differentiate between them aside from “past” and “present”. The writing and direction is so masterfully done, that at the movie’s conclusion, the all-inclusive experience feels like an exceptionally long and epic journey in a world of crime.
The performances are, without question, solid. Lanvin steals the show with his dominating Momon Vidal, convincingly portraying an anti-hero/criminal as a protagonist the audience cannot help but feel empathy for. His entanglement into his life of crime has come to this point, and you can see his emotional range in his eyes, without betrayal of them facially. He is rock solid, and you follow him into the story right through to the conclusion.
Down to its core, A Gang Story is a tale of brotherhood and family – and the values (and sometimes even rules) we place upon friendships. Beneath its crime thriller surface is a social commentary that is somewhat domestic though observant, of how we interact among our friends, and why we consider some of them as close as family.
There’s also a Shakespearean quality to the story that embraces elements of the memorable tragedies written by the great literary master. There are many allusions to this in the story at times, with tales of betrayals, tales of victories and of love; but more relevantly the tales of those who are king – but in this case: kings of crime.
You’ll find A Gang Story to be a highly thrilling story, and it will demand your attention throughout. You will instantly gravitate towards the characters – with strong sentiments too – highlighting the high credibility of the acting, the writing, and the direction. It’s a fantastic viewing experience overall, and I recommend checking this one out as soon as you can.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5