The First, the Last features characters that could fit right at home in a Tarantino film, without the same level of entertainment value.
Two middle-aged bounty hunters are hunting down a stolen mobile phone. The thieves? A down-on-their-luck young couple just trying to get by. In the mix is a group of gangsters, a rotting corpse and a conspicuous Jesus type character called… Jesus.
Director Bouli Lanners (who also doubles as one of the film’s leads) manages the intertwining stories well, typical of the style you’d see in an early Guy Ritchie film – minus the humour. This French/Belgian production is a slow-burning dark comedy-drama, which has interesting characters thrust into a very basic plot. The plot’s complexity can generally be of little relevance in a film like this though, if the film can pull you in to the narrative and hold you there. The First, the Last will get you there for the most part, but its lethargic pace may turn some viewers off.
Despite some slow pacing issues, the film does excel in its character development. Most of the film’s characters have some unlikeable qualities, but they’re all oddly relatable, and ones you can empathise with. This is most notable in the two bounty hunter leads’ journeys, as they try to get the job done while looking out for each other, with Lanners’ Gilou facing some personal health issues throughout the film, adding a heartwarming element to the film. It’s also the case with the thieving couple Willy (David Murgia) and Esther (Aurore Broutin); the two young lovers that have fallen on hard times.
Another high point in this film is its visual style. It’s overly bleak cinematography is superb and fits the narrative nicely, but has the potential to inspire some melancholy from the audience. It’s actually a smart choice of style for this film as the director hits the mark in achieving a dim outlook for the film’s characters, while still maintaining an element of sympathy for each of them.
The First, the Last had all the potential to make for a quirky, modern take on the crime-genre, but feels as though it takes itself just a bit too seriously. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the characters and performances are all commendable, making for a watchable film – if not a super entertaining one.
The First, the Last is screening as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival and you can book tickets here.