I stumbled into watching The Fall of the American Empire because I thought my podcast partner would surely want to talk about it, since he’s usually the one to champion any movie in French (it’s partially sub-titled). Alas, I was on my own. He didn’t see it! And that’s a shame because he probably would have liked it. Arty Chick may like it too. The Fall of the American Empire is a French-Canadian film that blends elements of a comical heist movie, serious social satire, and crime drama. It’s about a shy and insecure guy with a PhD in philosophy who works as a package courier to make ends meet. One day, while making a delivery, he encounters the aftermath of a robbery gone wrong – and two big bags of cash. What to do? Leave the scene empty handed? Turn the money over to the cops? Return it to its ‘rightful’ owners (who happen to be violent gangsters)? Or… take the money and run?
Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry) takes the money, setting off a chain of events that are largely formulaic but at times refreshingly offbeat. He joins forces with Aspasie/Camille (Maripier Morin), a high-priced hooker with beauty and brains, and Sylvain Bigras (Remy Girard), a financially-savvy ex-con just out of prison. Together, they hatch a plan to launder the cash and elude a pair of detectives hot on their trail.
The film is written and directed by Academy-Award winner Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions, The Decline of the American Empire) who seeks to inject a provocative and witty edge to the crime caper. It’s not just about the money; it’s also about societal greed, charity, politics, the price of happiness, and homelessness.
Consider this one for the rental queue when looking for a smart caper flick that can bridge that arty/mainstream divide. As foreign films go, it’s an easy watch.