vt Frontière du Crime
Canada, France / 92 minutes / color / 3 Themes, Hamster, Venture, Niagara, Antenne 2, Television Suisse Romande Dir: Yves Boisset Pr: Daniele J. Suissa, Nicolas Traube Scr: Robert Geoffrion Story: Alain Scoff, Yves Boisset Cine: Louis de Ernsted Cast: Nick Mancuso, Leah Pinsent, Patrick Bauchau, Anne Létourneau, Jacques Godin, Aidan Devine, Norris Domingue, Lorne Brass, Michael Rudder, Ken Roberts.
Originally made for the Canadian–French TV series Haute Tension (1988–94), this later saw home-video release as a standalone movie.
In the remote small town of New Hope, the car of Paul Flemming (Mancuso) breaks down in the snow. (A peculiarity of New Hope is that the deep snowdrifts that engulf most of the time every now and then seem to disappear overnight before, just as suddenly, they return again.) Good Samaritan vegetable farmer Wayne (Godin) helps him out, towing him to the nearby garage—where Jim the Mechanic (Brass) undertakes to repair the car—then taking him home to dinner and introducing him to daughter Amy (Pinsent) and her beau Jeff Swinton (Devine). Paul, who’s clearly attracted to Amy, tells them he’s an English professor at the university in the Big City.
Nick Mancuso attempts to convince as both thug and university don; cynics will of course ask, What’s the difference?
Once he’s back in the Big City, though, we discover he’s really the chief enforcer for hoodlum Raymond Ravennes (Bauchau), who operates out of the Black Club (which is so swanky that the strippers just sort of wobble boredly and don’t actually take their clothes off). Paul chuckles about having landed Jim the Mechanic with a rubber check for the garage bill, then sets about his usual business of intimidating Ravennes’s debtors. But, confronting one of these, Larry Crawley (Roberts), Paul suddenly has a change of heart—presumably because those good folk in New Hope, specifically Amy and her father, have made him realize there’s A Better Way.
Amy, who’s paid Jim’s bill, goes to the university and finds that Paul is in reality David Murdoch, who used to be a prof there but was booted out in disgrace three years ago. As we discover, Paul’s problem was that he got hugely in debt to Ravennes, who wrote off the obligation in exchange for Paul becoming his employee. Now, though, the dynamics are abruptly altered when Ravennes’s psycho sidekick Jack (Rudder) overdoes the intimidation of Larry Crawley and kills him. Ravennes and Jack frame Paul for the crime; Ravennes and Paul fight, and Ravennes pulls a knife; as they brawl, Ravennes suffers a near-lethal slash across the neck; Paul flees the Big City with $250,000 of Ravennes’ money and heads back to New Hope—after all, no one could possibly trace him there.
Amy (Leah Pinsent) takes it upon herself to try to ‘solve’ Paul (Nick Mancuso).
Of course, Paul’s recently dumped, now vengeful floozy Lydia (Létourneau) pretty promptly tracks him down, and she and a recovered Ravennes go to New Hope. Amy, who has become Paul’s lover, in trying to solve the puzzle of the man she adores finds the $250,000 stashed in a station deposit box, and for some reason moves it to a different deposit box; what she really wants to do is read the novel Paul’s been writing for years . . .
There’s some egregious overacting from Mancuso.
Obviously this is all leading up to a violent final confrontation, but it’s hard to care. De Ernsted’s cinematography, Godin as the good-hearted farmer and Bauchau as the George Sanders–like hoodlum are about all there is to like about this movie. The actors for the most part seem uncertain as to whether to try the laid-back amateur-dramatic-night approach or to ham it up—Mancuso alternates between the two modes, the switch often being so disconcertingly swift that you may drop your popcorn. And, where some of the dialogue seems to have been intended as hardboiled, it manages only to be, well, poached:
Ravennes to Flemming: I’d say you were just about two steps away from six feet under.
Or, toward the end:
Lydia: What’s it like to have your brains in a blender, Paul?
Paul: Since when have you been interested in haute cuisine, Lydia?