People often talk about French films as if they were nothing but talky and arty, but the French have a fine tradition of policiers: tough, hardboiled cop and crime movies such as “Le Cercle Rouge” (1970) or “Un Prophete” (2009). “Mea Culpa” is one such film that packs a mighty kick: It’s the type of film that will get a Tom Cruise remake three years hence that won’t be half as good as the original.
Vincent Lindon plays a retired cop who quit the force (and his marriage) after he killed a child in a car accident caused by his own negligence. Years later, he’s still haunted by it, but when his estranged young son accidentally witnesses a brutal gangland murder, he’s forced to pick up a gun to protect his family, assisted by his former partner (Gilles Lellouche) who’s still on the force and tracking the gang. Lindon is kind of the Bill Murray of action heroes, with a hang-dog expression and a thin, tucked-in smile, delivering an absolutely minimalist performance in between the explosions of violence. Director Fred Cavaye constructs some heart-stopping action, with a ferocious shootout in a packed nightclub being the best.