A Gang Story (Les Lyonnais)
The memoirs of Edmond “Momon” Vidal, leader of the notorious Lyon gang responsible for a series of armed heists in 1970s France, inspire former police officer turned director Olivier Marchal’s latest crime thriller A Gang Story. The ageing Momon (Gerard Lanvin), now in his fifties, although attempting to leave the criminal underworld of his past behind, is dragged back into a culture of gang violence by loyalty to his recently arrested childhood friend and accomplice Serge Suttel (Tcheky Karyo).
After the slow-paced opening scenes of a huge party celebrating the birth of another grandchild into Momon’s family, the action soon begins to pile on with Serge’s arrest provoking both men to consider their brutal histories as difficult decisions are faced. Flashbacks are interspersed throughout the storyline creating a sometimes disorientating, fragmented effect. A Gang Story focuses on the lifetime friendship of Serge and Momon, from their meeting as impoverished children to the grey-haired gangsters they have become.
Sent to prison as teenagers for drunkenly stealing a crate of cherries, the young Momon and Serge set out on a life of crime upon their release after being introduced to France’s ganglands by a cellmate. Later breaking away to form their own rival gang causes further violent and bloody consequences embroiling them deeper in the criminal world.
The moody undertones of violins reverberate tensely throughout most of the film, but the soundtrack is intermittently interrupted by rock music evocative of the 70s era. These songs usually accompany a montage of the heists, which flash by almost too quickly in a blur of shouting and gunshots, before cutting to the gang celebrating with champagne.
While there is depth to Momon and Serge’s bond, their fragile relationships with others seem largely unexplored. The only prominent female characters, Momon’s wife Janou and Serge’s daughter Lilou, seem a little flat. Their main purpose seems to be points of vulnerability for enemies to target.
One thing you do not threaten Momon Vidal with is harming his family. Any character that does is unlikely to come out of it well. Fiercely protective of his friends and relatives, Momon has chosen his loyalties and sticks to them with an unyielding stubbornness that does not always have the best consequences.
A film about gang loyalty and the bonds of male friendship, A Gang Story is worth watching for its engrossing plot and shock ending.
A Gang Story (Les Lyonnais) is released nationwide on 6th May 2012.
Watch the trailer for A Gang Story (Les Lyonnais) here: