Elegant assassin Lucrèce (Mélanie Laurent) wants to quit her profession and spend more time with her eight year old daughter (Clara Ruscon). But being both the best killer in the business and a gifted opera singer makes her perfect for the latest contract assigned to her handler (Tchéky Karyo) via sinister mastermind Van Kummant (Johan Leysen) who, for reasons of his own, masquerades as a priest. It happens British baritone Alexander Child (Christopher Stills) has acquired a distillery in Scotland and thus become an obstacle to a strategic pipeline project. Now the head of British Oil (Geoffrey Bateman) wants him dead. Lucrèce duly goes undercover at a Swiss retreat for Opera singers, but finds her assignment complicated by the presence of top government agent, Rico (Clovis Cornillac) who is determined to unmask the assassin.
Mélanie Laurent as a slinky assassin. What’s not to love? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. This abysmal French thriller misses the mark as ineptly as its supposedly deadly heroine and was poorly received in most quarters. First-time writer-director Jerome Le Gris claimed Requiem for a Killer was fashioned as an Alfred Hitchcock pastiche, with Lucrèce a new twist on your classic Hitchcock blonde and a score alluding to classic themes by the great Bernard Hermann, but the film also shares some plot parallels with Luc Besson’s landmark character-driven action-thriller, La femme Nikita (1990) which also had Tchéky Karyo in the role of a world-weary handler.
Viewers who can swallow the idea of a professional killer moonlighting as an exceptional opera singer along with an ace government agent being a world class classical guitarist will find the rest of the plot only slightly less absurd. While the premise suggests a spoof, what unfolds proves deadly serious or else too cack-handed to convey its darkly comic intentions. Seemingly more interested in weakly satirising the opera world than engrossing viewers as a thriller, the performances are mystifyingly solemn while Le Gris’ flat direction only makes one appreciate Besson’s razor-sharp handling all the more.
Hitchcock would likely have balked at the nonsensical plot and leaden attempts at caustic wit and suspense. Disjointed and dull, this plods along as characters grimace and circle each other for ninety odd minutes, pausing on occasion to wax lyrical on the difficulty balancing their personal lives with the rigours of being professional killers. Plot developments like Lucrèce’s romantic liaison with Alexander - a vapid character, blandly played - and Rico’s sudden discovery of her identity are so abrupt one suspects this has been drastically re-edited from Le Gris’ original cut. It is hard to imagine actors of the calibre of Laurent, Clovis and Karyo signed up on the basis of such a shoddy screenplay laden with inconsequential details. The denouement leaves us none the wiser what the heck any of this has been about. The best that could be said is that the Swiss scenery looks lovely. That’s about it.