22 Bullets stars Jean Reno as Charly Matteï, a mobster who’s gone straight and wants to leave his old life behind him.
Easier said than done in the mafia world, but he’s spent the past three years with his wife and two young children in Marseilles, getting to know them again. On the day we meet him, he’s out and about with his son, Anatole (Max Baissette de Malglaive), who spots some street theatre and is eager to take a look.
Charly drops him off while he goes to find a parking space, all the while indulging in his favourite classical music. As he gets out he’s suddenly ambushed by several men unloading hand guns and shotguns into him. Scores of bullets rain down on and around him, but only 22 hit their target, after which they leave him for dead. However, he’s just passed out. It’s a stark reminder for Charly that you are never out, until the day you die. As the subtitle of the film states, Spilled blood never dries…
There’s only one man in the frame for this – his old friend, Tony Zacchia (Kad Merad), and it’s time for revenge, especially when they kidnap and bump off one of his friends, Karim (Moussa Maaskri). Zacchia and co. treat that as payback for thinking Charly has gone soft, when, earlier on, he’s taken out of hospital to meet with one of Zacchia’s minions who, prior to the meeting, has been kidnapped, stripped to his underpants and had his legs set in concrete. Despite everything, it’s clear Charly still feels a kinship with Zacchia as they go back so many years.
Charly tracks all of his old cohorts down to a meeting and tells them he’s going to kill them all one by one – maybe tomorrow, maybe in six months… but certainly when they least expect it.
On the right side of the law is Captain Marie Goldman (Marina Foïs, below with Reno), assigned with the task of investigating this attempted murder. She knows what it’s like to lose loved ones, as her husband was killed in the line of duty. So she has to strike a balance between wanting to do the right thing and ensuring those responsible for Charly’s hit are caught and also in allowing him to do what needs to be done, which would mean compromising everything she set out to do in the police force.
22 Bullets is a film which passes a reasonable couple of hours, but it’s not great. It’s difficult to pin-point where the problem is – there’s just nothing that particularly grips you or makes you feel this is offering anything new. Also, something happens nearly 80 minutes in that is meant to look like a twist but is entirely predictable. The fact that one of the characters soon backs up precisely what the audience is thinking, much to the discontent of the nay-sayers around them, provides further proof that a serious re-write is required.
However, it does contain some fantastically violent moments in it, such as trapping a man’s head in a car door several times over, as well as gunshots to others straight to the head and bullets riddled all over the body. The director makes a great job of making these all look particularly realistic.
Overall, if you only watch one film with Jean Reno as a hitman, make it Leon. If you’ve got time for a second, 22 Bullets is worth a rental. But not this release, the reason for which you’ll discover below.
Presented in 16:9 and in 1080p high definition, at first I thought it seemed odd to be watching a film that appeared to be shot exactly in 16:9, which made me wonder what was going on with this print. While watching it, I thought 2.35:1 would be the kind of ratio that would’ve made a lot of the action scenes a lot more interesting, but the composition of the film throughout didn’t come across as one where I was watching an open-matte print of something that was 2.35:1 in the cinema, nor did it seem to show signs of cropping that you’d expect from a picture not showing its full width. However, the extras show that the theatrical ratio was indeed 2.35:1 and further clips I’ve seen online do show where some very obvious cropping has occurred, such as in an early execution scene, whereas it just looked slightly arty in 16:9. I really don’t get the thinking behind Anchor Bay’s decision to release this version and it’s a major, major fail. It’s bad enough when this sort of thing would occasionally happen on a DVD release, but for Blu-ray it’s unforgivable. Despite no other problems with the print itself, the picture scores zero.
The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version, and delivers gunfire, dialogue and the score with no issues, but at the same time, nothing particularly stands out. There’s split-surround effects for sure, but it’s all so perfunctory.
The extras are as follows:
- 22 Bullets in Marseilles (5:24): A brief featurette showing the film’s premiere taking place with chat from key cast members plus the director giving their two-penneth.
- The Making Of (26:40): Director Richard Berry talks about the book upon which his film is based, as well as the original incident which inspired it, that occurred in February 1977 where the exact same thing happened to a man in a car park in Cassis, France, as well as other aspects such as the story behind the character of policewoman Marie.
- Interviews: Five in total, here, presented in simple Q&A format with no-one else speaking but each interviewee – respectively, Richard Berry (9:27), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (8:50), Marina Foïs (6:23), Kad Merad (13:36) and Jean Reno (7:54).
- Trailers: Just two of them on this disc. The Original Trailer (2:02) in the original French language and in 2.35:1 and a Theatrical Trailer (1:40) in 16:9 and a ridiculous American voiceover which comes across as a bit of a joke. Both give far too much away about the film, so don’t watch them first… which rather negates the point of a trailer, I know, but I just wish they wouldn’t put them together in this way.
The menu mixes clips from the film with a very small piece of looped theme music. There are subtitles come in English only, while the chapter is a paltry 12 in number over the 117-minute running time. But then this disc does have bigger problems…
Running time: 117 minutes
Cat no: ABB8033R2
Released: January 31st 2011
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 1.78:1 (16:9)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Richard Berry
Producers: Luc Besson and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Screenplay: Eric Assous, Richard Berry, Alexandre de La Patellière and Mathieu Delaporte (based on the novel by Franz-Olivier Giesbert)
Music: Klaus Badelt
Charly Matteï: Jean Reno
Marie Goldman: Marina Foïs
Tony Zacchia: Kad Merad
Yasmina Telaa: Gabriella Wright
Aurelio Rampoli: Richard Berry
Christelle Mattei: Fani Kolarova
Malek Telaa: Daniel Lundh
Martin Beaudinard: Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Le pistachier: Joey Starr
Karim: Moussa Maaskri
Pascal Vasetto: Luc Palun
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.