On Netflix, two “Wages of Fear” confront each other

The only person who can blame Netflix for putting The Wages of Fear online, a monument of French cinema directed in 1952 by Henri-Georges Clouzot (1907-1977) and released in 1953, is Julien Leclercq, author of the remake financed by the platform which made it available the same day as the original. Others will be happy to have access to this great, big film, full of excesses and strokes of genius, which, in its subject matter, is as much a part of Hergé as of Céline and, in its form, owes everything to genius. Clouzot’s maniac who extends his paranoid and misanthropic influence over every gesture of the actors, over the smallest detail of each shot. The comparison does not work to the advantage of his emulator.

Since it is from him that the novelty comes, we must talk about Julien Leclercq’s Salary . From the original scenario – itself taken from the novel, published in 1949, by Georges Arnaud (1917-1987) – Julien Leclercq and Hamid Hlioua have kept only the most memorable element: a group of declassified people is responsible for transporting a load of nitroglycerin on bad roads, to a burning oil well, so that the explosion of the cargo blows out the fire.

Verisimilitude, Leclercq’s last concern

Seventy years ago, the outcasts formed a gallery of grotesque portraits, little white people stranded in a Central American town that they were no longer able to leave, for lack of money, for lack of ambition. The contemporary version places them in an undefined Arabic- and French-speaking country, in the grip of unrest whose ins and outs will remain a mystery.

It doesn’t matter, because it’s the expatriates that we are asked to be interested in: the brothers Fred (Franck Gastambide) and Alex (Alban Lenoir), the first a bit of a thug who makes a living from odd jobs in the security sector, the second good father, specialist in explosives; to Gauthier (Sofiane Zermani) too, who leads a team of mercenaries; finally to Clara (Ana Girardot), a humanitarian who treats local populations. We will know nothing about the latter, except that they suffer, caught between the hammer of the State and the anvil of armed groups. There are only the French to help them.

Fred (Franck Gastambide) in “The Wages of Fear” (2024), by Julien Leclercq.

The professions of the characters and the political configuration promise it from the first sequences: we will not be content to observe truck drivers risking their lives at the slightest pothole. Despite the (entirely anachronistic) presence of nitroglycerin in the back of the trucks, they are constantly under fire from bad guys of all denominations. No matter, plausibility – chemical reactions or feelings – is the last concern of Julien Leclercq, who seems bound by the obligation to empty at least fifty magazines per shooting sequence. Franck Gastambide, who we know can be funny or disturbing, seems here mainly concerned with passing himself off as Vin Diesel from Fast and Furious .

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