Racer and the Jailbird: Film Review

I love me a bit of Matthias Schoenaerts so I was keen to watch the Racer and the Jailbird (original French title: Le Fidele) at the London Film Festival but I unfortunately missed it. It is now set for a limited cinema release and I can’t really recommend – it was not worth the wait.

Schoenaerts stars as Gigi, who meets Bibi (Adele Exarchopoulos), a racing driver, after one of her races and they embark on a romance. He tells her he works in car imports and exports, but that is a lie – he is a criminal, has been all his life, and makes his money robbing banks with his longtime friends. After he falls in love with Bibi and finally comes clean, he promises he will quit after one last job.

I loved the first half of this film – getting to know the characters, watching their blossoming relationship and Exarchopoulos’ captivating and glowing screen presence. But it is completely let down by the second half, which is slow, far too long and absolutely maddening. I liked them both as characters in the first half, particularly the headstrong Bibi, but their choices after Gigi gets caught were baffling and infuriating. I don’t want to spoil it but their decisions were enough to put me off them both and not care about their fate, meaning the depressing and dramatic nature of final third had little effect on me.

Schoenaerts put in a decent performance as this conflicted gangster who is torn between his childhood friends and a lifestyle he’s known for most of his life and Bibi. Exarchopoulos steals the show though, with a magnetic onscreen presence and subtle performance. She really does light up the screen when she smiles. It is just a shame they ended up playing characters who do such dumb/questionable things. I know you don’t have to love every character to enjoy a film but I couldn’t understand the actions of either leads in the end.

The dialogue is very strong in the beginning and their chemistry is pretty good, so the film falls down when they are no longer onscreen together – and it is like that for most of the second half, making it really drag. Shame.

In cinemas Friday 13th July 

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