First Hit: Powerful film about prison life and how one can change their lot in life through shrewdness.
This French film is about a young uneducated immigrant man of Arab descent named Malik El Djeben (played by Tahar Rahim) living in France.
Although he has an ear for languages, he has spent most of his young life in youth prisons and has never gone to school. Now, as an adult, he has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for assaulting a police officer.
Malik has no family and no friends. He is a loner and is immediately singled out in this new prison environment as naïve and gets beat up for his new shoes which were given to him by the prison intake team because his original shoes were too ratty. Because he speaks both Arab and French he quickly becomes a bridge between French and Arab prison cultures although he is accepted by neither. A Corsican group of prisoners think he would be helpful with some of their problems.
His first assignment is to kill an Arab snitch for them which earn him protection from the other prisoners. But he soon learns he can make a profit negotiating between cultures. With his Corsican protection, willingness to take risks, and ability to take punishment, he grows his own business and becomes a leader to be reckoned with.
The final scene is absolutely crystal clear on what he achieves.
Rahim is outstanding as Malik and his ability to share the ups and downs of his character are wonderful. Niels Arestrup as Cesar Luciani the head of the Corsican cartel is very strong and carries just the right amount of aged swagger to bring his character to life. A strong script by Thomas Bidegain and Jacques Audiard showed they did their homework on a prison’s hierarchy. Audiard directed this longish film with the right tint and purpose.
Overall: This was a very good film and captured my attention from the very beginning.