French crime movies are some of the best in the genre. But they tend to move at a much slower pace than their American counterparts. My favorite French crime film, LE SAMOURAI, has a ten- to fifteen-minute opening sequence where the main character carries out a series of mundane tasks without saying a word. These opening scenes have no music, no dramatic camera angles, no sense of lurking danger. At one point, a car is stolen. But it is done in an unusually slow and methodical way, as if theft were no different than a tedious desk job. After these fifteen minutes of silent buildup, however, the movie quickly turns into a tense game of cat and mouse, where the police are often as clever and deceptive as the brilliant murderer they pursue.
BULLET TO THE HEAD #1 -- a newly translated version of DU PLOMB DANS LA TETE by acclaimed crime writer Matz -- follows this French tradition of the slow intro. Unfortunately, the pace is so slow in this book that it borders on complete pointlessness.
Most of this opening issue is dedicated to two hitmen, Louis and Jimmy, as they prepare to gun down a senator. We gather from their conversation that they have known each other for a long time. We also gather that they enjoy each other's company, because they talk nonstop about everything from European fashion to the pros and cons of therapy. In fact, they talk so much that they barely stop gabbing while they kill the fat old senator and his underage lover.
Their conversation is not meant to move the plot forward. Certainly, we don't learn who ordered the hit or why the senator was targeted. Instead, what it's meant to do is to show us how cavalier these killers are and to develop a deadly cool atmosphere. I'm not sure whether it's bad translating or just bad source material, but most of this conversation reads like a crappy parody of PULP FICTION. And when I say crappy, I mean "Oh my God I can't believe an editor allowed this to go to press" crappy. If a book is going to feature a fifteen-page conversation, it better have sharp dialogue and some witty observations. But there isn't one line in all these pages worth quoting. Most of what's said is just boring and silly and not very realistic. Who knows what hitmen tell each other when they hang out in real life, but I seriously doubt they talk about going to a shrink.
The second half of the book focuses on the detectives who investigate the senator's murder. And somehow, this part manages to be even worse than the first half of the book. Again, I'm not sure if it's bad translating or bad source material, but the last pages of BULLET read like a sleazy parody of LAW & ORDER. For example, as one cop examines the crime scene, he says, "If we find a fingerprint within a hundred yard radius, I swear I'll bang the girl's dead body at the morgue." Like the rest of the book, this line screams, "I'm trying so hard to be gritty, it's embarrassing."
I've read much praise for Matz as a writer. But based on this book, I don't understand where all this praise is coming from. Have these fans not read CRIMINAL, SCALPED, or STUMPTOWN? Because these crime comics are exceptional and in a league so far above BULLET IN THE HEAD that I feel bad mentioning them in the same paragraph as this derivative work.
The only good thing I have to say about BULLET is the art. Colin Wilson is not a flashy artist, but he's a strong storyteller. He draws the characters consistently and places them in panels with richly detailed backgrounds. He creates, in other words, real looking people in a real looking world. Too bad the story that he illustrates isn’t worth his time or talent.
I started this review by mentioning how wonderful and smart French crime movies are. Do yourself a favor and, instead of spending four bucks on BULLET TO THE HEAD, use that money to rent a French noir film. I've mentioned LE SAMOURAI already. Other great ones are RIFIFI, LES DIABOLIQUES, TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI, and TELL NO ONE.
Last edited by Eli Katz
on Sat Jun 26, 2010 3:02 pm, edited 4 times in total.