Tête de turc (2010)

aka: Turk's Head
Crime / Drama / Thriller


Tête de turc photo
When Bora, a 14-year-old Turk, hurls a Molotov cocktail at a car during a police drugs raid he can have no idea of what will follow. Actions have consequences. Through this one thoughtless act, Bora is about to irreversibly change not only his own destiny, but that of several others. The car belongs to an emergency doctor who has been called out to attend to a woman with cardiac problems. Caught in the blast, the doctor ends up in a coma. His brother resolves to find the person who put him there, at any cost...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Pascal Elbé, an actor who has already left an indelible mark on French cinema, makes his directing debut with this slick urban thriller which tackles head-on some of the most pressing social issues in France today: violence in the inner cities and teenage disaffection. Elbé takes as his starting point the real-life story of a gang of youths who set fire to a Marseille bus in 2006 and showed no remorse for their act which resulted in a student being burnt alive. Are today's disenfranchised youngsters susceptible to the workings of conscience or have they become so alienated, so lacking in compassion, that they are incapable of feeling for others? - this is question that Elbé invites us to ponder in this bleak urban drama.

Tête de turc immediately snatches the spectator's attention with a frenetic opening depicting a violent skirmish between youths and police. It is a sight that has become all too familiar over the past few years and this particular tussle ends with an innocent being caught in the crossfire. A doctor (played by Elbé) narrowly escapes being killed and is saved only when the lowlife who attacked him has a temporary crisis of conscience. Guilt and recrimination drive what ensues, with the crippled doctor's brother (a cop played by Elbé's friend Roschdy Zem) intent on seeing that justice is done.

The first half of the film can hardly fail to impress - an intense character-driven drama in which the protagonists' motivations are apparent and the underlying social issues tackled with the sensitivity and seriousness they deserve. Sadly, Elbé is unable to sustain this level of excellence into the film's second half, which ends up as a fairly routine thriller, relying on unconvincing plot contrivances to keep it chugging along. A secondary story strand involving a widower intent on revenge against the doctor for failing to save his wife's life is clumsily grafted onto the plot and guides the film towards its all-too predictable conclusion. Rather than delving more deeply into the three main characters (the doctor, the cop and the conscience-stricken youth) and developing a more plausible drama from their inner conflicts, Elbé broadens the narrative and loses focus, so that his characters become even more impenetrable as the story unravels.

The failure to prevent his film from slipping into well-worn tracks is the only area where Elbé disappoints. His direction is imaginative and daring, with more than a touch of Sam Peckinpah chutzpah about it whilst bringing out the best in the performances from the three impeccable leads. Samir Makhlouf impresses in his first screen role as the conficted teenager, whilst old hands Roschdy Zem and Pascal Elbé are up to their usual high standard, making up for the occasional weaknesses in the script. Judging by this promising debut, Tête de turc could be the start of a whole new career for Elbé.
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Tête de turc was nominated for 1 César in the category of: Best First Film (Pascal Elbé (director), Patrick Godeau (producer)) [2011].

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