Oscar nominated (Best Foreign Language Film Bullhead, 2011) Michaël R. Roskam’s Racer and the Jailbird (Le fidèle) is an Oscar contender. It stars Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead, Rust and Bone) and Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color). Following The Drop (2014), his English speaking excursion with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, Roskam gets back to his lucky charm with, Schoenaerts.
Upper class Bibi (Exarchopoulos) lives for high drive adrenaline. She satisfies her desire for it as a race driver. In comes Gigi (Schoenaerts) and she falls for him. Coming from a more troubled background, Gigi, posing as an Import-Export guy, has a double life in which he is part of a childhood gang doing various robberies and Brinks jobs.
Roskam boosts good performances from the cast and there is chemistry between the two leads. Good, since essentially Racer and the Jailbird is a drama, borderline melodrama with thriller bits. The layers and links to childhood trauma, leading to the actions of the characters send us back to the director’s own Bullhead. This aspect, with the use of Jacques Audiard’s co-screenwriters, Thomas Bidegain (A prophet, Rust and Bone, Dheepan) & Noé Debré (Dheepan), brings constant changes in pacing, moods and genre that doesn’t entirely work this time. And because of that, It really has the overall feeling of an Audiard movie without the finesse of the French director.
Although it is entertaining and provides good cinematic values, Racer and the Jailbird, with its added melodrama and tone change, fails to be fully convincing.