"Unconvincing Sociopolitical Drama"
What You Need To Know:
LES MISÉRABLES is a pretty tense movie. It has a unique setting, with unique situations. However, the movie’s Romantic politically correct worldview tries to blame society for the misbehaving children and teenagers. The young thief gets hurt, but, otherwise, he’s not as sympathetic as the movie seems to intend. Eventually, he leads a gang of masked thugs to attack and even kill the three policemen. Ultimately, the movie’s political viewpoint isn’t convincing. LES MISÉRABLES (2020) also has some Pro-Muslim content, lots of strong foul language and brief drug references.
LES MISÉRABLES (2020) is a modern-day French crime drama.
The movie opens with footage from the 2018 World Cup in France of a united nation. The footage focuses on one young Muslim teenage boy named Issa, who later is revealed as a local troublemaker.
The audience is then introduced to Ruiz, a man who’s moving to the Paris suburb of Montfermeil and transferring to the local police force. His new police team includes the leader, a white policeman named Chris, and his Muslim partner, a black man named Gwada. Known as the place where Victor Hugo staged parts of his novel, also titled LES MISÉRABLES, the suburb was the site of riots in 2005. Chris and Gwada tell Ruiz that the suburb was a hotbed of crime until the Muslim Brotherhood organized the local Muslims. However, the community has trouble keeping its teenagers in line, who roam the streets looking for mischief, especially boys like Issa and especially during the summer when school isn’t in session. The movie even shows a scene of several older bearded Muslim men telling a group of boys to behave themselves and inviting them to stop by the local mosque to have some snacks and ice cream.
Chris decides they should take Ruiz on a tour of the neighborhood, but Ruiz soon realizes the type of policing he’s used to is not how Chris and Gwada do it. For example, Chris likes to frisk some of the local women on the street, who may or may not be prostitutes.
Suddenly, the policemen come across a group of men arguing with the suburb’s local “mayor,” who seems to be engaged in a protection racket at the local street market. The men are from a gypsy circus that just entered the suburb to perform. They claim someone stole the lion tamer’s beloved little lion cub, named Little Johnny. The lion tamer warns the mayor that, unless they find the cub and return it, the gypsies will return with weapons. To defuse the situation, the policemen agree to find the cub.
As they drive around looking for the cub, Chris and Gwada almost haze Ruiz by doing things they don’t want to do, and things they know are wrong. They also talk down to him, call him names and don’t listen to anything he has to say. They order Ruiz to talk to Salah, the local Muslim Brotherhood leader, who also operates a popular fast food kebob place where Muslim men gather to talk. When Ruiz tries to ask Salah if he knows anything about who took the lion tamer’s cub, Salah only gives him self-righteous Muslim platitudes about lions being noble creatures who shouldn’t be placed in cages.
Chris decides they should look on social media to see who has the lion cub. These people are stupid, Chris notes. Sure enough, the team finds an Instagram photo of young Issa with the cub. They find Issa playing soccer with his friends, but have to chase him down. When Chris finally grabs Issa, his friends start to throw things at the three policemen. The situation quickly turns dangerous when, during the melee, Gwada fires his Flash Ball weapon at Issa trying to run away again. The weapon seriously injures Issa’s right cheek, just missing his eye. Making matters worse, the men and Issa’s friends realize the whole incident was caught on a drone. The drone is being operated by another Muslim boy, Buzz.
At this point, the three policemen hear on their police radio that the lion cub has been spotted. Cut to the policemen bringing the cub back to the lion tamer. Chris forces Issa to apologize to the lion tamer. He does, but the lion tamer grabs Issa and carries him into the lion cage, where he dangles the boy just out of reach of the large lion inside. Of course, the policemen aren’t happy about this. Chris points a real gun at the lion in the cage, and the lion tamer takes Issa out of the cage and returns him to the three cops. I was just trying to teach the boy a lesson, he says.
Outside the circus tent, Chris nixes Ruiz’s suggestion that they now take the injured Issa to the hospital. If they do that, they won’t be able to keep their jobs, Chris observes. Instead, he orders the team to take Issa to another local gangster, a helpful informant who can help them find out who’s running the drone. Meanwhile, Issa’s friends run to the mayor. They tell him what happened, informing him that Buzz’s drone has the whole incident on the drone camera’s memory card.
The mayor and the three policemen all show up at Salah’s kabob place at the same time. There, they find that Buzz is already there and has given the drone and the memory card to Salah. An intense negotiation begins over the memory card. The mayor tells Salah that, with the memory card, the three policemen will have to do what they say. Chris is uncontrollably angry about that, of course. So, Ruiz tries to argue with Salah that, if he hands the card over to him, Ruiz can keep the peace and even make sure that Chris will stop harassing the people.
Who will end up with the memory card? Will the policemen be able to keep their jobs, but under what conditions?
LES MISÉRABLES (2020) is a pretty tense movie. It also has a unique setting, with unique situations. LES MISÉRABLES is not a solution-oriented drama. Instead, it’s a problem film, a movie designed to point out a problem, in this case, the volatility of a poverty-stricken and crime-ridden area in the Paris suburbs, where the police harass the citizens in order to keep everyone in line. Also, the movie ends with a quote from its muse, Victor Hugo, “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.”
The movie’s primary flaw is that the alleged “victim” in the story, the young Muslim teenager named Issa, is an unruly jerk. For example, he steals a lion cub from its owner just to impress his friends, including local girls, and gain popularity on social media. Then, compounding this irresponsible act, he can’t take care of the innocent animal, and it gets loose from him, to wander the streets alone. Then, when the police try to talk to Issa about the animal kidnapping, he defies them and tries to run away. Finally, when he gets hurt due to these actions, and no one seems to care about his injury, [SPOILER FOLLOWS] he decides to lead a gang riot the next day to attack the policemen and, apparently, try to kill them (the movie ends with a close up of Issa as he ponders whether to hurl a flaming Molotov Cocktail at Ruiz, who’s trapped in an apartment corridor with his two new police partners). Thus, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for Issa or his friends, no matter how badly they (and the movie’s writer/director) think the police have been harassing them and the people in this particular community. Instead, one feels sorry for the policemen and for the adults in the community who have to put up with unruly children like Issa and his friends.
Thus, despite the Romantic quote from Victor Hugo that ends the movie, the movie’s strong Romantic worldview isn’t convincing. Neither the children nor the adults in the community depicted in the movie seem like victims of an unjust society. By attacking the three policemen twice in the story, the children and teenagers are not sympathetic, and the adults come across as ineffective. As the Jewish and Christian Bible notes multiple times, there is no person who really does good. We are all guilty because we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory that is God’s.
Although all the children in the movie appear to come from Muslim immigrant families from Northern Africa, the children otherwise don’t seem particularly Islamic. In the one scene mentioned above, the small group of children seem to listen patiently to the three Muslim elders who instruct them, but they go their own way the rest of the day, much like the average unruly child. That said, the Muslim Brotherhood leader in the movie, Salah, is depicted as a positive figure, despite the weird Muslim spin he gives the policeman about the nature of a wild lion. Also, however, Issa and his band of Antifa-masked thugs do nothing to Salah, even though he’s the one who gave the police the memory card from the drone.
Ultimately, LES MISÉRABLES (2020) has an unconvincing political worldview with some annoying Pro-Muslim content, lots of strong foul language and brief drug references.