Régis Blondeau directs Netflix’s new French thriller “Restless”, a remake of a 2014 South Korean film. In it Franck Gastambide plays Thomas, a crooked lieutenant with the local police’s crime division who finds himself neck-deep after an attempted cover up. The movie is a strange one that often feels at odds with itself. One minute it seems to be going for a grittier crime thriller vibe, but then you wonder if it’s really a dark comedy. I’m still not sure.
Gastambide’s Thomas is already trouble the moment we meet him. Word is out that several in the precinct are taking bribes from criminals to look the other way. Now Internal Affairs has opened up an investigation and are on their way for a surprise visit. Thomas’ captain (Serge Hazanavicius) gets wind of it and scrambles to make sure there’s no trail for the investigators to follow. Thomas’ friend and fellow officer Marc (Michaël Abiteboul) and an idealistic rookie Naomi (Tracy Gotoas) also work (although begrudgingly) to get rid of any incriminating evidence around the station.
Meanwhile Thomas is out trying to tie up some shady loose ends. But he also has a personal crisis. His mother has died and his sister Agathe (Jemima West) is waiting for him at the hospital for final arrangements. Thomas also has a little girl named Louise (Victoire Zenner) who stays with Agathe and wonders why her father is never home.
After getting word the IA is on their way, Thomas rushes to the station. But on the way he doesn’t see a man step out of the night and in front of his car. He hits the man killing him. But rather than reporting the death, Thomas throws the body in his trunk, apparently feeling the attention would draw unwanted attention to his list of dirty vices. It leads to a snowball effect of problems as Thomas spends the rest of the movie trying to cover his tracks.
Despite its best efforts, “Restless” never quite hits the marks it seems to be shooting for. Nearly the entire first half of the movie is filled with these borderline wacky moments as Thomas tries to dispose of the body. Some of the scenes are so absurd that you swear the movie is meant to be a straight comedy. Yet they’re not convincing enough for us to say whether the humor is intentional or not. The movie seems to take them seriously, but I was never sure whether I was supposed to.
Then you get to the second half where any hint of humor evaporates, and the movie ratchets down on the grittier crime element. We get a couple of fight scenes and a twist or two, neither of which are as gnarly or interesting as they need to be. The insertion of a shady mystery man (a palpably threatening Simon Abkarian) adds a little suspense, but he comes along a little too late to make much of a difference.
“Restless” bounces around, seemingly unsure of what kind of movie it wants to be. Or maybe it does know, but it can’t quite bring those elements together in a satisfying way. It’s competently made and it’s shot with a good understanding of how to frame a scene. The performances are solid and the cast does what it can with the material. But it’s hard to stay connected with the story which never gets a firm footing and lacks the originality to make it stand out. “Restless” is now streaming on Netflix.