La Horde (2009): A French Zombie Feeding Frenzy

Directed by  Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher (both of whom also co-wrote the film with three other writers) La Horde gives us the French take on the zombie apocalypse.

Set in a derelict building for 90% of the film, the action takes place in hallways and rooms and pretty much ends in the basement of the building. The 10% of the film time that does not take place (and 10% is “miles” over the actual amount of screen time that does not take place in the building, but I am too lazy to give a real percentage) is at the start of the film and the very end.

The film opens with a funeral. A small crowd of people are at the graveside of the dearly deceased. After the ceremony four of the mourners meet with an older woman who tells Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) that she knows what they are going to do and to bring all of them back.

The four mourners are Ouessem, Jimenez (Aurélien Recoing), and Rivoallan (Laurent Segall) and Hélène (Marie Vincent) who at the very start I thought were gangsters. It turns out that they are cops and they are attending the funeral of a comrade who’s been murdered by a drug gang.

The gang is multi-national set of thugs headed up by Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney) and his brother Bola (Doudou Masta) and Tony (Antoine Oppenheim) and a few other thugs to fill out the numbers.

The cops approach the “abandoned” building and kill one of the gang’s lookouts. As they enter the building the “manager” comes out armed with a shotgun. They explain that they are there for Ade’s gang, telling the manager to forget he saw them and they go up to the criminal’s hideout.

As they are preparing to enter the flat, the manager shows back up and inadvertently alerts the gang to the planned entry. Rivoallan is shot through the door; Jimenez shoots the explosive that they placed on the door and gets injured. Bola comes out and shoots the manager and the cops are drug into the crooks lair.

Meanwhile, France is undergoing a catastrophic experience that includes explosions, fire and smoke and (although the group doesn’t know it yet) a zombie infestation. By the time the two bands find out about the zombie problem, they have lost most of the crooks and one of the cops. This little group form an uneasy alliance and decide to get out of the building.

Yves Pignot as René.

As they fight their way through the building they meet René (delightfully played by Yves Pignot) who is the condemned building’s resident loony and ex-soldier. He joins the ever decreasing group and they all attempt to escape the zombie infested building alive.

The movie itself is entertaining but not overly so. I did not care for any of the police, they were not a cohesive group and everyone had issues with everyone else. The female cop was not likeable and she actually was the least sympathetic character of the group. No one did anything that made their characters stand out.

But, the bad guys?

They were great. The film belonged to Ade and Bola and Tony. These three actors owned this film. Every time that Ade (Eriq Ebouaney) was on screen he commanded the scene; Doudou Masta and Antoine Oppenheim as Bola and Tony had a similar effect when they interacted with anyone.

I have no doubt that Oppenheim’s resemblance to a younger Harvey Keitel helped to call attention to his character. Ebouaney has so much presence that you find it difficult to tear your eyes away when he is in a scene. Masta has a great capacity for clearly exhibiting pathos and angst. This trio blew everyone else away in the film and rightly so.

The only exception was Pignot as René who used his lifetime of experience as a film actor to shine as the Vietnam veteran who is obsessed with warfare and killing “chinks.” He was the only other actor who could compete with the three gangsters on film.

But despite the fact that I enjoyed the film (but not too much, remember) I hated the ending. It was not unexpected, considering the total lack of sympathy I had with the female cop, but I would have preferred a different solution to the film.

This is definitely a 3 star film (out of 5) and worth the price of admission for the crazy ex-soldier and the three drug cartel gangsters alone; definitely a Netflix film versus a “buyer.”

Bola and Ade.
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