A scene from Denys Arcand's 'The Fall of the American Empire'

A scene from Denys Arcand's 'The Fall of the American Empire'

Academy Award-winning director Denys Arcand (“The Barbarian Invasions”) once again explores society’s downfall in a tale about greed, corruption, and extravagance.

But there is a Robin Hood twist to this story as a delivery driver witnesses a failed robbery attempt and confiscates the loot before the police show up. Does it make a difference that he spends his free time working in a soup kitchen and helping the homeless? Colorful characters and a good cast make this mild crime caper enjoyable. Think of this as a French-Canadian version of “Ocean’s 8” with high stakes and a low danger factor.

Pierre Paul Daoust (Alexandre Landry) is a 36-year old with a Ph.D. in philosophy who is forced to work as a delivery driver for a Canadian company that resembles UPS in order to make a decent wage. In his downtime, Pierre Paul volunteers at a soup kitchen where he’s dedicated to helping the homeless.

Before being dumped by his bank teller girlfriend Linda (Florence Longpré) the two engage in a dialogue where Pierre Paul goes on to explain how the world is filled with idiots. The successful and elite are not necessarily the smartest and as he points out, even great writers such as Tolstoy were "dumb as mules." When Linda asks, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you president of a bank?” Pierre Paul responds, “I’m too intelligent.”

Yes, Pierre Paul fits the definition of a douchebag. He has an inflated sense of self-worth and his social skills are not the best but before you discount the intellectual delivery driver, remember he is a humanitarian who goes out of his way to help the less fortunate and as far as his ramblings go, Pierre Paul has some valid points. A dose of the daily news will corroborate Pierre Paul’s mindset. People are getting dumber.

One day while making a delivery Pierre Paul stumbles upon a robbery gone wrong. Two people are killed while one of the robbers escapes after being shot. With no one in sight, Pierre Paul grabs two duffle bags left behind filled with millions in cash and shoves them inside his delivery truck before the police show up. Despite being such an intellect or maybe proving that he is quite smart, Pierre Paul enlists the help an eclectic group of people to help him hide the money. There’s former biker leader Sylvain 'The Brain' Bigras (Rémy Girard) a whiz with finances who just got out of prison, a high-dollar escort with a heart of gold named Aspasie after the famous Greek philospher (Maripier Morin), investment professional Maître Wilbrod Taschereau (Pierre Curzi) who’s an expert at cleaning “dirty” money, and of course his ex, Linda.

The unlikely bunch launches an intricate plan that involves burying the cash until it’s safe, transferring funds, and shaking off the two detectives hot on their trail (Louis Morissette and Maxim Roy). “The Fall of the American Empire” becomes a crime caper like one of the “Ocean’s” films where the thieves make it look easy. The enjoyable cast and steady pace make Denys Arcand’s latest film a pleasure to watch.

“The Fall of the American Empire” may lead you to believe that this is a sequel to Arcand’s 1986 film “The Decline of the American Empire” but it’s not. The film’s title, though a bit confusing, may be explained by how America’s fixation with money has spread worldwide. When was the last time you heard of someone coming to this country without the dream of making more money? As Cardi B. would say “All I really wanna see is the Money, I don't really need the D, I need the Money.”

(3 stars)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

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