Nominated for an Oscar for International Feature, Les Misérables begins during summer 2018, with Parisians of all ages and races joyously celebrating France’s victory at the World Cup. This moment isn’t to last, as a rural cop named Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) comes to the capital to be near his ex-wife and their son. His first day on the job turns into a nightmare when his police mentors (Alexis Manenti and Djibril Zonga) shoot an unarmed black kid named Issa (Issa Perica) in the face from close range. Worse yet, the incident is captured by another boy with a drone, and the three cops frantically navigate the black and Arab neighborhoods in Paris’ outer city to retrieve the footage.
First-time filmmaker Ladj Ly turns this into a swiftly moving thriller amid a city fractured by race in ways that are different from American cities, with religion causing tension both between and among the various minorities. Issa’s theft of a lion cub from a Gypsy circus causes a bunch of jacked Gypsies wielding baseball bats to demand that the self-appointed mayor (Steve Tientcheu) find and give back the animal. Poor Issa survives his shooting only to be subjected to even worse violence from the cops and the other inhabitants of the ghetto, especially when he returns the lion cub. It all culminates in a riot targeting the cops that Ly stages with escalating dread that you won’t forget.
Les Misérables runs Fri-Sun at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $8-10. Call 817-738-9215.