Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Charly Mattei, as played by French superstar Jean Reno, is minding his own business spending some quality time with his mother and being chummy with arguably the most cherubic little boy on the planet earth. You don’t put a kid that cute in a movie like this for no reason. Charly and Anatole (Max Baissette de Malglaive) are on their way home, Anatole having the annoying tendency of putting his hands over his father’s eyes while he’s driving since apparently there are no child restraint laws for moving automobiles in Marseille. Charly lets Anatole get out of the car so he can enjoy a sidewalk fair that is going on… So while there’s plenty of crime in this town apparently crimes against children are off-limits since most responsible parents wouldn’t put their five year old out on the street while they go to park their car at some underground facility. But alas if little Anatole was in the car then one of those 22 bullets that the doctor’s eventually had to pull out of Charly Mattei, might’ve hit the little boy. We need him around for later. The name of the movie is ’22 Bullets’ and it is underway.

Charly Mattei used to be a brutal mobster. But at the time he got shot he was just a quiet, retired family man spending time with his little boy and his wife Christelle (Fani Kolarova) who is a rescue whore. Charly wasn’t bothering anybody so why would somebody try to kill him? For his part Charly isn’t doing too badly. He lost the nerves in his right hand and is a lefty now and needs a cane to get around but he’s doing pretty good earning himself the nickname of L’ Immortal.

Investigating this crime is boozing grieving Marseille cop Marie Goldman (Marina Fois) who is still trying to recover from the loss of her police officer husband a year back. Her superior tells her not to worry about it because these mob things tend to sort themselves out on their own. In fact, he tells her more or less, that if her husband wasn’t so nosy he’d probably still be alive today. Officer Goldman deals with that rude comment by talking to her good friend Absolut. Nonetheless Officer Goldman tries to do her job but Charly isn’t talking.

Maybe Charly’s best friend and long time mob partner Tony Zac (Kad Merad) did this, but there’s really no reason. Eventually Charly learns who did this and his right hand

man Karim (Moussa Maaskri) thinks they need to strike back but Charly decides to just let bygones be bygones. Oh well, so much for that. Anytime you see a character enjoying a happy, joyful dinner with his family in a movie that calls itself ’22 Bullets’, you know that character is dead. Say goodbye to Karim and say hello to the return of Charly Mattei.

Charly has people to kill. With his family safe and secure Charly sets about handling his business. Oh, did we say that the family was safe and secure? Our mistake. Cute kid, remember? This is a foreign film so Charly may or may not save that cute kid. This is why we like foreign films.

Entertaining? Hell yes. Flawed? Beyond belief. How could this movie not be entertaining? For starters Richard Berry directs his film like his pants are on fire and he has Jean Reno as his lead. Not unlike Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’, also from Luc Besson’s Eurocorp, Jean Reno just doesn’t present us with a character who is just a stock badass, but a character who has been through some things, a character who has levels and layers beneath his scarred exterior. When he tells those dudes that he’s going to kill them in a respectful way, unlike the way they tried to kill him, that was powerful and only sounds right coming out of the mouth of someone like Jean Reno. The action is crisp and exciting, the performances supporting Reno, especially Marina Fois and Kad Merad were solid and as far as revenge action flicks go ’22 Bullets’ was one helluva ride.

Now it’s not the most original story ever told since we’ve seen variations of the same thing, especially recently, told over and over again and it’s a good thing that we don’t need these stories to make complete sense to enjoy them. There were elements of the story that were picked up, say like our cop visiting this thug in prison, that didn’t seem to lead anywhere in particular and there were other mystery elements which they either forgot about or weren’t all that interested in exploring any further. Other plot points were stuck in for the sole purpose of moving the plot in a certain direction having little connection to anything in particular and I know the scene of Charly going through the gauntlet of barbed wire with the music pumping was supposed to be exciting… but it was really kinda silly and if you think about just a little bit, completely unnecessary. And if you shoot a guy 22 times maybe somebody should’ve thought of shooting him in the head. Charly shoots people in the head.

Ah, but the final scene between Charly and his alleged best friend Zac… simply classic. A scene performed by a couple of old dudes who know what the hell they are doing. Actually Kad Merad isn’t all that old, just a couple of years older than me actually he just looks like hell. Nonetheless, great scene and Merad played it just about perfect.

If you can see past this movie’s holes, and they are gaping ones my friends, you really can’t go wrong this. It’s cool, slick, violent, fast and has Jean Reno doing what he does. But you gotta get past those holes. I did, but I don’t know if you can.

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