In an age of remakes and reboots comes an unexpected one, a radicle updating of “Les Miserables,” Victor Hugo’s classic novel of broken dreams and sacrifice, now on VOD. Set in modern day France, the new film “Les Miserables” eschews the grandeur of the Broadway musical of the same name to tell the gritty story of the downtrodden and three members of an anti-crime brigade.
Taking place over the course of two, event-filled days, the action begins when the even-tempered rookie Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) joins the suburban Montfermeil Anti-Crime Squad. Teamed with Gwada (Djebril Zonga) and Chris (Alexis Manenti, who also co-wrote the script), hair tempered alpha male nicknamed Pink Pig patrol the crime ridden area of Les Bosquets. When one of the local kids, Issa (Issa Perica), steals a lion cub from a circus it sets into motion a series of events that brings to a boil the already simmering relationship between the police and the townsfolk.
Gritty and naturalistic, “Les Miserables” occasionally uses a hammer where a softer touch would suffice but the picture it paints of social unrest is vivid and unforgettable. The slow build to the explosive ending effectively echoes the tradition of revolution popular in French history and storytelling.
Introducing talented non-actors into the mix gives the movie a realistic, cinema-verité feel to the tale of injustice and anger. It’s often not an easy watch but the revolt against oppression is an important and timely topic.
“Les Miserables” is a stirring debut for director Ladj Ly, one that is both thought provoking and an indictment of failed social policy.