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Poliss blends real life, soap opera

Even oral sex goes on too long in Maewenn’s sprawling police story.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Maewenn, the French actress, singer and film-maker, is in competition with her third film Poliss, a sprawling, shapeless account of a fictional children’s protection unit in Paris. The best thing about the film is its large and impressive ensemble cast including Joey Starr, Karin Viard, Marina Fois, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Riccardo Scarmarcio, Sandrine Kiberlain and Maiwenn (nee Maiwenn Le Besco) herself. She certainly has a way with actors and the banter and conflict between the CPU team is authentic, much of it appearing improvised.

Of course the problem with improvisation is that scenes can run too long and many do in this film, which clocks in at 127 minutes. Even a comic scene in which a teenager says she gave three boys head in exchange for her smartphone goes on several beats too many.

Indeed, it feels like a bigger, smarter episode of a TV show like Law And Order: SVU and you half expect Mariska Hargitay to pop into frame. The multiple stories of child abuse are taken from harrowing real case histories but the troubled personal lives of the cops - which encompass divorce, bulimia, infidelity and a serious inability to shake off the day job - are not far off soap opera.

Maewenn’s own character - of a state-appointed photographer documenting the work of the CPU - is problematic and unbelievable, and nobody seems to mind that she causes a sting operation in a mall to go wrong.

That said, there are two smashing rows, one in which Viard tears into Fois and one in which a Muslim CPU cop Naidra Ayadi eviscerates a Muslim man for his treatment of women.

French press responded more enthusiastically to the film than international at the press show this afternoon.

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