Anarchic craziness makes the revolutionary message go down smoothly in Louise-Michel, Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine’s black comedy about an unemployed plant worker’s decision to hire a hitman to exact working-class vengeance on the rich and powerful. Louise (Yolande Moreau) is a hulking, antisocial illiterate who, after the toy factory where she works is unceremoniously shut down, convinces her fellow co-workers to use their pooled severance pay to hire a killer to off the boss responsible for their predicament. However, the man she finds, Michel (Bouli Lanners), who has a collection of homemade firearms and fancies himself the security guard of his trailer park home, is a delusional dolt similarly wanting in the brains department. Despite accepting the assignment, Michel doesn’t have the guts to even kill a dog, so when it comes time to do the dirty deed, he instead enlists his on-death’s-door cousin to perform a suicide mission, though as befitting the mood of extreme absurdity, things soon spiral out of control.
Dedicating their film to French anarchist Louise Michel, directors Kervern and Delépine root their madcap story in socio-economic fury at the unjust, marginalizing consequences of capitalism, yet their liberal mockery also targets green-living environmentalists, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and illegal immigrants. The slowly leaked revelation that both Louise and Michel are cross-dressers furthers the lunacy, as well as epitomizes the filmmakers’ portrait of modern France as a place where inequality and unjustness compels people to mutate and/or deny their fundamental identities, a point that lends the bizarre tale an underlying strain of sadness.
Louise-Michel occasionally flounders courtesy of sketch comedy-ish vignettes, such as Michel and Louise searching for his trailer home or a wheelchair-bound man getting hit by a bus, that strain too hard for wackiness. Nonetheless, there’s quite a bit to laugh out loud about, but more successful still are those moments when the film seems farthest out on the ledge, from the sight of Michel’s chemo-bald cousin in a fluffy blue dress shuffling toward the cocktail-party guest she plans to blow away, to drunken Louise and Michel joyously, victoriously dancing in slow-motion while a SWAT team slowly converges on their position.