Close Enemies 2018 Movie Scene Reda Kateb as Driss and Matthias Schoenaerts as Manuel talking

Close Enemies AKA Freres Ennemis [2018]

French crime thrillers are something else. The modern ones like this one are just continuing a tradition that started some seventy years ago. Close Enemies or Freres Ennemis follows two friends whose worlds collide. One of them is a narcotics detective and the other one a narcotics dealer, a match made in heaven. So, you already know what to expect, a gritty, realistic, and captivating study of the French criminal underworld and the people who inhabit it. Not really a character study nor a thriller focused on world-building, Close Enemies dances somewhere on this line.

It focuses on an intense atmosphere full of suspense instead of shootouts and action. A definition of a slowburner interrupted by sudden bouts of violence. I will jump to the end of the movie for a moment just to praise David Oelhoffen’s decision not to spell things out for us. That last fucking shot was simply beautiful. We all knew what happened despite not seeing it because we’re now part of the Close Enemies gang. And sure, the story is a bit predictable and this is something we’ve already seen a couple of times but it’s just so goddamn juicy that I can’t help but love it.

Additionally, the story unfolds over the course of just a couple of days making up for that slower pacing. It’s not a sprawling crime saga like Les Lyonnais or La French. Focusing on one neighborhood and just a few characters it’s more like The Crew or BAC Nord but without so much action. And these are all good choices if you’re looking for something to watch after this one. I know that as soon as I see one good French crime thriller, I immediately want to follow it up with another one. And so the cycle begins until I run out of good movies. 

The prison parking lot is a lot busier than usual this morning. Nouri, a member of a loose criminal organization operating from one rough neighborhood is about to be free. Among those who can’t wait to see him are Imran, Fouad, and Manuel, three of his closest friends and accomplices. As soon as he got out, they started planning their next drug deal. A drug deal that might just be their last one…

As always, I cannot stress enough how important it is to see Close Enemies with the original French audio. In fact, you could try to watch it with the English dub just to see and hear how much it fucks with the atmosphere and characters. It kind of makes you realize how important sound editing is to a movie, something we oftentimes forget. I also urge you to skip the trailer and just straight dive in because it contains spoilers. Now that we got that out of the way, I would just like to add why this movie feels so authentic and realistic.

You see, director and writer David Oelhoffen talked to real drug traffickers and high-profile criminals and that’s how he got the inspiration for the story. Matthias Schoenaerts and Reda Kateb were excellent since the weight of the entire movie rested on their shoulders. Close Enemies feels like an indie production but it looks sleek and big. Finally, I liked the unbiased approach to such a sensitive topic like a criminal element of the French immigrant community. I say sensitive because some people oftentimes blame the immigrants for the rise in crime or anything else that goes wrong.

And we all know that this is not the case and that the problem lies further up the chain. Hell, even the movie jokes about this, further proving the point. Sure, there’s crime in these communities but there’s fucking crime everywhere. These issues are far too complex for us to break down at the end of a movie recommendation but I felt compelled to say something. To me, as someone who doesn’t have a dog in the race, I found this aspect of the movie exotic and fascinating because it’s different.

Director: David Oelhoffen

Writers: Jeanne Aptekman, David Oelhoffen

Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Reda Kateb, Adel Bencherif, Sofiane Zermani, Gwendolyn Gourvenec

Fun Facts: Part of the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival.


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