Friday, 19 August 2016

Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq (2001)

Eugène François Vidocq was a criminal who later switched sides, becoming the founder and head of the French National Police.  He was also the founder of the first known private detective agency, and is considered to be the father of modern criminology.

Vidocq was, in other words, quite a character, and while in the real world he never obviously never actually tangled with a supernatural assassin who possessed the secret of eternal youth, I'm certainly willing to accept it as the premise of this stylish French action/thriller.

The film begins with Vidocq confronting said assassin, and apparently being killed in the ensuing struggle.  Naturally the word "apparently" is pretty important there, though I don't think I'm really spoiling anything by telling you that Vidocq's not actually dead.

The film then follows Vidocq's biographer, Etienne Boisset, as he attempts to piece together the details of the great man's last case.  This began when Vidocq was called in to investigate a series of murders committed by means of lightning strikes.  Boisset starts with Vidocq's partner in the private investigation business, then moves on to an exotic dancer, a journalist, and the widow of one of the murder victims.  Each step takes him closer to the identity of the assassin, but also brings him more and more to the attentions of the police.  Oh, and possibly of the assassin as well, since some of the people he speaks to start turning up dead ...

Dark Portals (known simply as Vidocq in its native France) is a fun bit of supernatural nonsense.  It's got a good cast, an enjoyable if far-fetched plot, and some stylish visual elements.  Some of the digital effects it employs haven't aged all that well, but there are precious few turn-of-the-century films where that isn't true.

If the premise sounds like something you might enjoy, then I suggest you check this film out.  I found it a highly entertaining way to spend an hour and a half, and the DVD even includes an English-language dub for anyone who is allergic to reading.  As always, I went with the subtitled version myself.

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