There is definitely something going on in France. The last decade or so has seen an incredible surge in genre film from the land of Vincent Cassel, with films like Inside, Martyrs, Frontiers and more all making there way to our shores. While Calibre 9 is much more goofy and playful than those more extreme horror films, it’s hard to imagine this film getting made if those films hadn’t come before to pave the way.
Calibre 9 is a film about a city planner who finds a gun which is possessed by the soul of a dead hooker. Yes, that’s really what it’s about. Sarah (Nathalie Hauwelle) is the hooker in question, a pretty girl who fell into the life and has been struggling for years to pull herself out. She’s scheduled one last job with an eccentric but high-paying customer, after which she’ll have enough money to leave her pimp, Frank. But when Frank shows up unexpectedly with the customer getting ready in the next room, Sarah’s plans start to circle the drain. A misunderstanding escalates, Frank pulls a gun, and they both end up dead. When the mysterious customer discovers the scene, he gives Sarah the second chance she so badly wanted.
Yann Moreau (Laurent Collombert) is kind of a boring guy. He gets up, goes to work, comes home, goes to bed. That’s about it. But he does happen to work in the mayor’s office, which is a cesspool of bribery and corruption. Yann hasn’t stayed above the fray, and exchanging permits for money and favors is everyday business. When he goes to a job site to deliver some paperwork to a local businessman and accidentally insults him, all hell breaks loose. Thankfully the gun he knew nothing about starts talking to him, flies into his hand of its own accord and starts taking care of business.
The action scenes with Yann are interesting to watch particularly because Collombert had to pretend that his hand was acting independently from the rest of his body. He does a credible job in this department as well as having a completely terrified and confused look on his face the whole time. The action is also surprisingly well shot, with a decent amount of handheld that never gets so bad that you can’t tell what’s going on. There’s definitely a sense of mayhem and chaos but it’s not overdone. There are also a few shots with a POV camera seemingly attached to Yann, or more likely his stunt double, as he tucks and rolls and dives for cover that provide some great footage.
Calibre 9 is crazy and a bit over-the-top. It’s quite obviously a low-budget film, but that doesn’t stop everyone involved from having a great time. It does have a bit of a tone shift with the mayor plotline getting a little uncomfortable, but even the activities of his secret club are played more as inky black comedy than as drama. The finale is a rollercoaster ride through a hailstorm of bullets and succeeds as a worthy ending. It is a film that is distinctly aware that it is ridiculous and is purely out to show the audience a good time.
The Upside: Does a decent job of doing justice to such a great premise, has some solid action sequences despite its low budget, keeps things moving along at a nice, brisk pace and wraps up just before it overstays its welcome.
The Downside: The low budget does cause a few problems, gets a little overly sleazy, and maybe doesn’t kick quite as much ass as it probably should.