La Mentale: The Code

With a name so nice it's in the title twice, La Mentale: The Code is the standard gangster movie, except this time everything is in French and a bunch of French guys are playing Arabs. Instead of Italians, Irish, Russian, or even Asian gangsters, everybody here is Arabic or a gypsy. A gang of Arabs is vying for the big time, hoping that one big heist will propel them into the upper echelons of crime. However, The Code is less about the crime than it is about one man, Dris (Samuel Le Bihan, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Shooting Stars), who is trying to go straight. Again, it takes a pretty standard theme of crime movies and doesn't really do anything new. The Code is predictable in its inevitability, and the only real thing is has going for it is a new take on the ethnicities.

Dris spent some time in jail, where he was able to decide that he wants to spend time with Lise (Marie Guillard, Aram, Return to Algiers), who is pregnant with his child. The lure of crime still remains great. His brother is trying to break into crime, and his old friend and partner Yanis (Samy Naceri, Ferocious, The Repentant). His old girlfriend, Nina (Clotilde Courau, My Idol, Almost Peaceful) is intensely jealous of Lise, and wants Dris for herself. Part of the problem with Manuel Boursinhac (Drugs!) and Bibi Naceri's script is that everybody is excessively stupid, not to mention aggressive. The latter is understandable, the former is unforgivable. It basically means that these idiots will confront each other at every opportunity, causing unnecessary bloodshed, when, if they think for a moment, they can all come out for the better (monetarily).

Everything revolves around the fact that there should be honor among thieves. Feche (Michel Duchaussoy, Amen, The Widow of Saint-Pierre), a local crime boss and Yanis are heading towards a confrontation. Feche believes that Yanis broke the code, or the system of honor among thieves. Everybody has their own territory, and everybody's happy. Yanis says he believes in the code, but his ambitions for greater territory supercede any sense of honor. Dris' brother also royally pisses off another drug dealer, again forcing Dris to return. No matter what he does, Yanis or somebody else does something that will drag him back to a life of crime. Boursinhac, who also directed, wants to show Dris' struggle between the two worlds, but it never feels concrete. Dris pays lip service to the wanting a decent life, but any viewer can tell that he isn't trying that hard.

As an action film, The Code is basically like every other gangster film, with a little bit of gratuitous nudity (what kind of gangster film is complete without a trip to the strip club), and a big shoot-out at the end. Along these lines it works just fine, one just wishes that Boursinhac made everybody a little smarter. With Yanis as insane as he is, it's difficult to understand why he isn't already dead. Naceri does look and act like slime, so it's easy to hate him, and Le Bihan does have a bulky build that makes him seem like a thug. As in character as these two look, the film would look even better if the actors actually were Arabic.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 46 minutes, French with English subtitles, Rated R for violence, language, and sexuality.

Back to Movies