L'homme du train

Rating: * * * (out of 5)
Director: Patrice Leconte
Running time: 90 minutes
Language: French
Currently showing
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A lot of filmmakers like to work in a way that could best be called "cast first." That is, they decide who they want to work with, and then fashion a role with that actor in mind. This can pay off, as directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Francois Ozon and Sophia Coppola have proven in recent years.

Theoretically, a tailor-made role allows an actor to play to his strengths, but sometimes it can be too perfect: With no challenges, the actor just coasts. That seems to be the case with director Patrice Leconte's latest, his 20th film, "L'Homme du train."

Rock icon Johnny Halliday -- the "French Elvis" -- had contacted Leconte expressing his desire to appear in a film. Perhaps he was hoping to get dropped into a bordello a la "Rue de plaisirs," Leconte's previous film, but instead the director responded by casting him opposite his favorite leading man, Jean Rochefort ("Monsieur Hire," "Lost in La Mancha"). The result is a minimalist two-hander that puts Rochefort, mousy, retired teacher, bourgeois and talkative vs. Halliday as a rootless bank robber, hard-edged and brusque. It's also a contrast in performance: the quintessential actor vs. the "natural" rocker.