Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Pack (2010)(Minor Spoilers Reivew)

**This review contains minor spoilers. No character deaths, major twists, or reveals**

During a road trip in the countryside of northern France, a loner named Charlotte Massot (Emilie Dequenne) decides to pickup Max (Benjamin Biolay), a hitchhiker. Charlotte has some doubts about Max at first, but she’ll have to worry about bigger problems, when a group of rowdy biker thugs threaten Charlotte and Max at a local diner/truck stop. The biker gang overpowers Charlotte and Max during a struggle, but La Spack (Yolande Moreau), the owner of the diner, uses her shotgun to defuse the tension. La Spack forces the biker gang to leave with the promise of fired shots, and Max takes a break to use the bathroom.

As time passes, Charlotte realizes something is strange, when Max disappears without a trace. Chinaski (Philippe Nahon), a local retired police officer, warns Charlotte about the dangers of helping hitchhikers, but he uses his skills as a policeman to help Charlotte solve the mystery of Max’s disappearance.

Curiosity gets the best of Charlotte, and she decides to investigate La Spack’s diner during the late hours of the night. For her first clue, Charlotte picks up Max’s bandana, and she finds a hidden room in the men’s bathroom. Charlotte peeks her head inside the secret room, but the investigation is cut short after a quick blow to the back of the head.

In the morning, Charlotte awakes as a prisoner inside a cage with another delusional and petrified man as her cellmate. Chinaski is still on the outside, and he’s unaware of Charlotte’s plight. Charlotte has to think of an escape plan before the next full moon, because Charlotte and the other prisoner are live bait and food for a pack of ghoulish creatures……

I give the nod to Dequenne for the best performance here. Charlotte is a tough and rugged lone wolf, who refuses to quit, and Dequenne shows some believable raw emotion during Charlotte’s moments of desperation. And there’s a scene where a biker thug spits a thick, hanging loogie into Charlotte’s cup at the diner. Dequenne calmly drinks from the cup, and she refuses to break eye contact with the biker. Nasty scene that shows off Charlote’s resilience, and Dequenne’s unflinching demeanor pulls everything together.

Runner up goes to Yolande Moreau. La Spack is a deranged  and delusional sociopath, who believes in her mission, and Moreau brings a creepy dark sense of humor to this character. Nahon is good for a few laughs as the dimwitted (there’s a scene, where Nahon sticks straws in his ears and nose to look like walrus) retired cop, but Chinaski proves he can still pull a trick out of his sleeve every now and then (more on that later). No big complaints about Biolay. He’s believable as the subservient follower, but Max has a change of heart towards the end.

The plot holes are annoying and frustrating, but I still enjoyed The Pack. The cast is rock solid, and director Frank Richard deserves credit for creating a genuinely eerie and unsettling atmosphere for The Pack, especially the nighttime scenes. Richard delivers an appropriate amount of bloody gruesomeness, the suspenseful finale is full of nail-biting moments, and the fake out cliffhanger sparks an uncontrollable series of thought-provoking “What if?” questions.

Rating: 7/10

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