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2002’s “The Nest” probably surprised a lot of people, myself included, who didn’t think the general French movie industry was capable of producing anything other than films about how great it is to have sex all the time or how crappy and miserable the world is and we should all hang ourselves. Unfortunately for mainstream cinema lovers in the States, aside from the works of Luc Besson, France has offered little by way of mainstream entertainment. Of those that I have seen, “Riders” was pathetic and “Dobermann” was pointless. So what else is there? Enter Florent Emilio Siri.
“The Nest” stars Nadia Fares as Laborie, the commanding officer of an elite police squad charged with delivering Albanian mob chieftain Nexhep (Angelo Infanti) to the proper authorities for trial. En route, Nexhep’s men intercept the caravan, but Laborie manages to save what’s left and take refuge in a storage warehouse. But they’re not alone: already in the warehouse is thief Santino (Benoit Magimel) and his merry men (and one woman), whose plans to steal laptop computers come quickly unglued. As the army of suicidal faceless gunmen surrounds the warehouse for the inevitable assault, the cops must join forces with the thieves, along with security guard Louis (Pascal Greggory), or else they won’t live to see the morning.
It’s probably not too big of a leap to guess that director Florent Emilio Siri is inspired by Hollywood action movies. Even the narrative structure of “The Nest” is similar to James Cameron’s “Aliens”. Although considering the film’s habit of whistling the theme from “The Magnificent Seven”, perhaps Siri had the western in mind more than he did Cameron’s sci-fi epic. Whatever the case, “The Nest” is an intense and suspenseful action film that also manages to elicit some claustrophobia from its central warehouse locale.
Once the cops and thieves are pinned inside the warehouse, the gunmen immediately overwhelm them. The gunmen are not only faceless on purpose, but they are never seen without red-tinted night-vision goggles that makes them look (again, on purpose) like preying warrior insects in search of their captured Queen, which makes my allusions to “Aliens” all the more appropriate. Oh sure, “The Magnificent Seven” might be the inspiration on record, but I dare say there’s more crawling and converging warrior aliens here than Mexican bandits.
There is little doubt that “The Nest” is a terrific action picture, one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. There’s no real characterization to find, but that’s no big mystery, and as such is not really missed. The staged action is intense, choreographed to give off the perfect combination of hellish conditions and mindless carnage. In particular is an early scene where the gunmen, having surrounded the warehouse, unleash a tidal wave of bullets in the span of a few minutes. Enough bullets flood the warehouse that it seems improbable anyone could have survive. But as fans of action films will tell you, you simply have to allow for some suspension of disbelief, even if the script goes out of its way to fill in various loopholes with clever, albeit not entirely believable, explanations. (How does the cellphone thing work again?)
Anchoring the film is Nadia Fares (“The Crimson Rivers”), who the film seems to indicate has a prior relationship with colleague Giovanni (Valerio Mastandrea). Not that the duo has time to get their feelings out, since the bloodbath on the highway begins almost immediately, followed by the sustained bloodbath at the warehouse. Fares is an incredibly sexy woman, although it might just be the tight commando outfit and her ability to mow down a sea of gunmen that did it for me. Whenever Fares is onscreen, it’s impossible to look away. Is there anything sexier than a beautiful woman who can handle an assault rifle like she was born to it?
As the leader of the thieves, Benoit Magimel is less effective. Of all the characters, his is given the most life beyond the movie, which makes the character’s blandness all the more confusing. On the other hand, Angelo Infanti, as the captured mob boss, does a spectacular job despite his limited screentime. Infanit’s Nexhep is not only monstrous by the crimes he’s done, but also the man proves to be a monster in the flesh when he dispatches one of the cops with nothing more than a will to kill and his fingers. This guy would give the Alien Queen a run for her money.
Action films don’t get any better than “The Nest”. It’s intense from beginning to end, and the direction by Siri is always assured. The characters, despite having very little backstory, nevertheless manage to carry the film all the way to its brutal finale. For junkies of pulse-pounding action, “The Nest” is a winner.
Also of note is the lack of loud, crushing gunfire sound effects in “The Nest”. Who knew you could make an effective action movie without resorting to splitting the audience’s eardrums? Take notes, Hollywood.
Florent Emilio Siri (director) / Florent Emilio Siri, Jean-FranÃ§ois Tarnowski (screenplay)
CAST: Angelo Infanti …. Abedin Nexhep
Samy Naceri …. Nasser
BenoÃ®t Magimel …. Santino
Nadia Fares …. Laborie
Pascal Greggory …. Louis