They say that revenge is a dish best served cold and because the French generally have a good handle on their dishes, it only serves true that they bake up a French variation on a typical kidnapping/heist film. As an American film, someone like Bruce Willis would have unsubtly kicked a lot of ass on the way to finding and no doubt killing the kidnappers. But Lady Jane offers more than just cold revenge. It’s interesting, smart, tension filled and sexy in the right places.
Lady Jane, the newest film by director Robert Guédiguian (The Last Mitterrand), begins when mother and Marseille boutique owner Muriel (Ariane Ascaride) receives a call informing her of her son’s kidnapping. Not wanting to call the police, Jane enlists the aid of her former pals François (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and René (Gérard Meylan) to help raise the ransom money. These pals turn out to be more than just friends. Back in their glory days when, as they say they looked better, they worked as colleagues in various robberies and other unsavory activities. Being good enough at their jobs to retire, none of the trio had spoken for a long time until the kidnapping reunites them. It also rekindles some old romance issues. And you know what they say about “office romances?” The strain of locating the kidnapper, together with the romantic stress causes friction for the gang.
Lady Jane ducks, dodges and dances like a crafty boxer not using all his force for a knockout blow until the very end. It rarely moves straight ahead without deftly layering another plot twist. Those seeking more typical kidnapping films elements won’t be disappointed as the film offers cat-and-mouse elements, shoot-em-ups, and tough guy mentality but adds complexity with voyeuristic tones, and well positioned flashbacks, and effective soundtrack (from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to sharp American pop lyrics to driving blues notes) to tie the film into a neat package.
Unlike most films of this genre the film doesn’t end with everyone either shot up dead or walking gloriously off into the sunset with a load of riches and a big smile. It offers a more somber finale with one of the elements being that people want to reclaim their youth. Living in the past, or reliving the glory days, can be accomplished many ways. Returning to what one does best, even if it’s illegal, can rekindle the spirit. Or near the conclusion François bitterly utters, “Suicide will always keep you young.”