One of Netflix’s strategies now seems to be finding directors with practical experience but few or no feature length films under their belt and giving them a modest budget just to see what happens, and, like The Half of It, Lost Bullet is an example of when that approach works. Writer-director Guillaume Pierret comes to this no-frills thriller about crooked cops and cars that go vroom with some TV and short film credits to his name, and manages to turn in a flick with good action and a story that doesn’t get in the way.
We join Lino (Alban Lenoir, who also wrote) as he and his kid brother Quentin (Rod Paradot) attempt to clear the latter’s bad debt by pulling off a ballsy heist that involves ramming a souped-up Renault into a jewelry store and grabbing everything in sight. Lino’s engineering worked so well that he just punches a hole clean through the store, trapping himself in the car for the police to easily apprehend as Quentin escapes. Lino’s skill at turning cars into nitrous-powered battering rams earns him an early release from jail when policeman Charas (Ramzy Bedia) offers him freedom from prison in exchange for help modifying cars in Charas’ anti-go-fast squad (“Go-fast” being the term for when drug smugglers use their own turbocharged cars to outrun the fuzz).
It’s not long before Lino must try to bring in his own wayward brother, but things take a turn when some of the police within the anti-go-fast unit reveal themselves to be crooked and try to frame Lino for murder. His only hope of clearing his name is getting a car to the police so they can recover the lost bullet embedded in the dash and prove the identity of the real killer.
It takes a while for the movie to set up its premise, but doesn’t waste much time once it does. Lenoir is a physically imposing actor in the Jason Statham mode, ready to glower with intensity during dialogue and hurl himself fully into the movie’s fight scenes, which are staged to make him come off as dogged and inventive rather than invincible. One in particular – in which Lino escapes from police custody by capitalizing on chaos within the precinct and using anything he can get his hands on to beat the cops off of him – is a great example of staging an extended fight scene with multiple camera angles that remains perfectly coherent.
The story is never groundbreaking, but neither does it undermine the movie’s action. Part of the reason the film takes a little while to get to its relentless action is that it spends scenes establishing Lino’s relationship to all of the principal characters clearly: If he’s a criminal, it’s only to help Quentin. We watch as he develops trust with Charas and bonds over their shared enthusiasm for cars. He’s having a tryst with the only other cop who isn’t crooked, Julia (Stéfi Celma), a fact the bad guys use to discredit her even as she tries to help him from the inside. The crooked cop Areski (Nicolas Duvauchelle) is a standard sneering baddie, but he’s at least complicated by a paranoia about his fellow conspirators—one that ultimately proves to be justified.
Pierret manages to stage some pretty decent car chases, too. The last act of the movie has Lino busting through a police blockade and zipping around claustrophobic streets, trading paint and leaving glass, blood and fenders on the pavement. He’s doing all of this in a little red Renault 21 with a spoiler on the back. The Renault 21 was a family sedan, so this the equivalent of somebody turning a Ford Taurus into an assault vehicle, something American action movie directors should make a reality right now.
It’s all paired with an occasionally sublime comic sensibility: At one point Lino is just absolutely pummeling a helpless bad guy, but looks up to witness a situation that requires immediate, decisive action. Without looking down at his handiwork, he continues pummeling the bad guy. His mind races through what the hell he’s going to do, all while, on auto-pilot, he keeps raining blows down on the guy. This goes on for a couple of beats before he does finally act, and it’s a good example of the few times Lost Bullet thinks it’s a great idea to let an action scene continue for just a while longer.
For a director with no feature-length experience prior to this, Pierret pulls off an entertaining, well-staged action flick that does much well even if it does little new. Pierret doesn’t reach the truly sublime levels of Besson or Morel here, but he gets within a car length or two, and proves at the same time that many aspiring filmmakers with the chops just need the equivalent of a man, a car and an excuse to wreck some fools in order to make a good movie.
Director: Guillaume Pierret
Writer: Guillaume Pierret, Alban Lenoir, Kamel Guemra
Starring: Alban Lenoir, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Ramzy Bedia, Stéfi Celma, Rod Paradot,
Sébastien Lalanne, Arthur Aspaturian, Patrick Médioni, Alexandre Philip, Pascale Arbillot
Release Date: June 19, 2020 (Netflix)
Kenneth Lowe is anti-go-fast. You can follow him on Twitter and read more at his blog.