Red Lights directed Cßdric Kahn, written by Kahn, Gilles Marchand and Laurence Ferreira Barbosa, from the novel by Georges Simenon, with Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Carole Bouquet, Vincent Deniard and Jean-Pierre Gos. 106 minutes. A BAC Films production. A Mongrel Media release. Opens December 24. Rating: NNNN
Hitchcock once defined the thriller as the crisis of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. Of course, Hitchcock's idea of an ordinary man was Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant or Joel McCrea. Red Lights is about an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, but it's a balding middle-aged guy played by an actor North American audiences have never seen before, Jean-Pierre Darroussin - though he does have a role in A Very Long Engagement, with Audrey Tautou, which opens this month.
Antoine (Darroussin) and Hélène (Carole Bouquet) have a fairly cranky marriage and are driving off through the south of France to pick up their kids from camp when they get into an argument. He stops at a rest stop, she decides to take the train, and he heads off in pursuit, only to be hijacked by a very dangerous character.
Working from a novel by Georges Simenon, director Cédric Kahn has made a thriller that is unapologetically grounded in the emotional reality of the characters. There are no digital effects, no vast conspiracies, just this ordinary guy stuck in a situation that's way beyond his control.
Kahn, best known for his debut, Too Much Happiness, is less stylish than a great thriller director like Claude Chabrol, but he does have a firm grasp on his characters and actors, and Red Lights is unusually satisfying proof that you can make a suspenseful movie with minimal resources.