‘Polisse’ takes hard look at child sex crimes and does it well

Maiwenn stars, co-writes and directs 'Polisse'
Maiwenn stars, co-writes and directs ‘Polisse’

Here in the U.S., some may have become a little “dulled” to the problem of cops handling sex crimes, particularly those involving children, thanks to 13 seasons (thus far) of Law and Order:  SVU.  But French director/writer/actress Maiwenn (you might have missed her in Leon: The Professional if you blinked) shows us that for the detectives in the Child Protective Unit (CPU) in Paris, sex crimes involving kids is not something for the faint of heart.

It looks and feels like a documentary, but Polisse was scripted by Maiwenn and Emanuelle Bercot, and Maiwenn plays the professional photographer hired by the police department to document the unit’s activities for a book.  She isn’t certain just how to take the detectives and their attitude at first.  She tries disguising her good looks to get taken more seriously but Fred (rapper Joeystarr) sees through this instantly, although he doesn’t let her know that for some time.  He, like every cop in the unit, has a story of his own, although we don’t get to see every cop’s individual story in detail.  There isn’t enough time in the film’s 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Fred is married, willing to fool around, but claims he wants to work things out with his wife.  He has a child he adores, and he takes his business life very seriously.  This is a common theme among cops who work child sex crimes, as the victims tug at their heartstrings almost every time.  When you see a little girl sitting across the room from the grandfather who is accused of molesting her, and she’s calling him a liar, you can’t help but be moved.

The film’s most stirring scene involves a mother and son who aren’t victims of anything except becoming homeless.  She shows up at the CPU wanting to give her son to them so he will have a bed to sleep in and food to eat because she’s no longer capable of providing those things for him.  The cops try everything under the sun to keep them together.

Iris (Marina Fois) is partnered with Nadine (Karen Virad) and Iris is always telling Nadine what she should do, about her problems with her husband, her work, what she does when she’s not working and so on.  You can see the pot is going to boil over here, the only question becomes when.  And what demons torture Iris to be so hateful of men.

Apparently in her mind, men being unfaithful is all about them thinking with their “equipment” (not her word), while women cheating are not nearly as bad, because they are doing it due to feelings in their mind and not because of an itch at the crotch.

We see a wide variety of suspects being interrogated about their alleged offenses, including one where the cops are told to take it easy on him.  “I have connections” he said during the interrogation and apparently that’s true.  While we hear a lot about abuse and sex crimes involving kids, thankfully we don’t watch much of it going on.  One sequence that is bound to make you laugh involves a girl whose phone was taken from her and the demands that were placed on her to get it back.  Even the cops themselves were laughing out loud at that one.

Polisse is a hard look at a serious subject, in spite of making you laugh in a very few places.  It’s a strong effort.

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