Bastards opens on St Valentine's Day, but don't let it be the movie for that date night. It's too noirish, too bleak, and while there is no massacre, there are a few dead bodies.
Ship's captain Marco (Vincent Lindon) steps down from command of a tanker when news reaches him of his brother-in-law Jacques's suicide in Paris. Marco's sister Sandra (Julie Bataille) tells him that business dealings with the elderly, suave Edouard Laporte (Michel Subor) are the reason for her husband's demise.
As Marco and Jacques had been close buddies, Marco is desperate to find out what happened. With his lined, care-worn and contemplative features, Vincent Lindon is spot-on for the role of Marco. Divorced, and the father of two daughters, he is an enigmatic loner.
As part of his mission to find Laporte in Paris, he moves into the apartment below where Laporte's mistress Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni) lives with the young son she had with Laporte. Meanwhile, Marco's niece, Justine (Lola Créton), is seriously disturbed in hospital, following alcohol, drug and sexual abuse.
Marco is determined to track down the perpetrators of Justine's sexual slavery, but in the process he uncovers evidence of sinister doings closer to home.
Film Noir is a fine balance; it's about a kind of implosive containment rather than stories springing to life. Suitably austere, and scant on dialogue, Bastards seems to be aiming for that kind of noirish existentialism, with much of it shot in shadowy interiors.
But while the first half promises much, we end up with something lethargic and ineffectual that ultimately lacks pace. One can't help thinking what Michael Haneke - whose French thriller Caché was a pure marvel - might have done with it.