Le Petit Lieutenant is a French cop show that, despite valiant efforts to be un-Hollywood, would’ve benefited from a little Michael Mann-ish zing. Fresh-faced Antoine graduates from police college, but his wife refuses to leave Normandy for Paris, where Antoine will join a homicide-investigation unit. His boss, Caroline, is a recovering alcoholic still smarting from the death of her young son. When Antoine, eager to bust a case, goes off on his own into a suspect’s apartment, the operation goes terribly awry.
Alas, so does the movie. Spoiler alert: Antoine’s character is a shot of zest in an otherwise dreary affair, but when he goes into a coma, we’re left with one-note, hard-boiled cops who grimace all movie long once the rookie is out of the picture. Caroline is the exception; her fall from the wagon into a bottle of gin, though predictable, is acted with sad, quiet nobility. Director Xavier Beauvois’ restraint is welcome after Hollywood’s summer gluttony, but after two hours of gloom and doom, it’s a test to get interested in characters that sit a foot or two beyond arm’s reach.
Opens September 8 at Angelika Film Center