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The film captures the rigid emptiness of life in a sprawling concrete banlieu (housing scheme) on the outskirts of Paris, an environment peopled by those who lack the financial or social clout to live somewhere better. These are Eastern Bloc tenements, characterless boxes in which society's detritus can be stacked, abandoned, and - hopefully - forgotten about.
The film focuses on three lads - somewhat stereotypically a Jew, a North African, and a black African. Life in the banlieu is supposed to be a tale of sanitised boredom - surely the immigrant population should be grateful for admission to the cultural greatness of France and its capital? Only the black youth attempts to make something of it - he has struggled to build a gym and to literally fight his way out of poverty by boxing. The North African youth is an incorrigible thief and poseur. The Jewish lad, meanwhile, poses in front of the mirror, aping De Niro's taxi-driver and playing the hard man.
But the world of the banlieu has imploded in urban riot - a participant sport in which local youths can engage and enrage the CRS, the French riot police, in a game of street chess, complete with petrol bombs and baton rounds. It is, of course, an entertaining spectator sport for the film crews and media. For the rioters, their fifteen minutes of fame come courtesy of news broadcasts.
The Jewish boy finds a handgun, dropped by one of the riot police. Now he can finally imitate De Niro.Read more ›