FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 27, 2011
Director: Jean-Christian Tassy
Writer: Jean-Christian Tassy, Eric Cherrière
Starring: Laurent Collombert, Phillippe Burel, Christophe Lafargue, Nathalie Hauwelle
A prologue introduces us to a prostitute named Sarah (Nathalie Hauwelle) just before she is murdered by her pimp. Suddenly we are transported into Yann’s (Laurent Collombert) bland upper middle class existence just as his role as city planner is about to take a very dramatic turn.
Yann fatefully comes into possession of a gun that is embodied by a troubled and wronged prostitute — Sarah — who empowers him with very special super-soldier powers in order to destroy the corrupt white males of Frédéric Pontamousseau’s (Christophe Lafargue) local government. Sarah speaks to Yann by way of the firearm — we learn how this happened, but the motive behind her spiritual possession of the gun is never fully explained. A retired cop, Richard Wolfhound (Phillippe Burel), seems to be the only other person to know about Sarah’s presence inside the gun and he joins forces with Yann. Why? No reason. (Calibre 9 epitomizes what Rubber coined the cinema of no reason.)
After seeing Calibre 9, it is incredibly obvious that writer-director Jean-Christian Tassy worships at the altar of Luc Besson. But other than some sleekly stylized editing and a plot that is clearly saturated with Bessonian tropes, Calibre 9 has much more in common with Grindhouse flicks with its low grade production value and cheesy performances (Nathalie Hauwelle is the one exception).
Unfortunately, this promising first feature by Tassy never comes together. The narrative makes little to no sense and motivation for any of the characters’ actions seems to have been deemed unnecessary by Tassy. I realize that Calibre 9 is pure fantasy, but there is absolutely nothing to ground the narrative, therefore the audience is given nothing to hold on to. Ambiguity and unanswered questions are typically good things in my opinion, but in the case of Calibre 9 we need some guidance. It would at least help to understand why Sarah has embodied the gun. Why does she want to kill Pontamousseau and his staff?
Calibre 9‘s merits come down to a few hyper-violent fight sequences that are nicely choreographed and some nice post-production tricks. In the end, Calibre 9 is proof that genre cinema needs to be more than just some stylized violence.