Movie Review: Crime Gets Personal In Netflix's 'Close Enemies'

Close Enemies Frรจres ennemis Reda Kateb Driss Matthias Schoenaerts Manuel
Image by Netflix
“Close Enemies” (“Frรจres ennemis”) features the familiar tale of cops versus criminals. In this French-language film that came out in 2018 and was recently released on Netflix, those roles get a deeper dive and a more pronounced backstory. Driss (Reda Kateb) is a cop working on a bust with his boyhood neighbor.

Now a drug dealer, Imrane (Adel Bencherif), is working with Driss on the bust. Nothing about it is going to happen as planned, and it puts Driss on a direct collision course with Matthias Schoenaerts’ Manuel. He is a drug smuggler and single father, who has a rough rapport with his son’s mother. “Close Enemies” is not about that drama, though.

Its focus is on the drug trade and the ensuing aftermath of the disastrous deal that has the walls closing in on Manu as Driss tries to salvage things. “Close Enemies” falls into the vein of “Narcos” and many other movies and television shows that have portrayed the dynamic between drug rings and law enforcement.

The differential for “Close Enemies” is the conflict-of-interest twist involving the cop’s emotional ties to the guys he is trying to bring down. They grew up together. There are issues with the execution of it, though. The pacing is destabilizing, and the emotional setup is not quite there for what follows. It is too much too soon, and it just does not land.

It is tough to know if it is a movie medium issue. Could more time have lent some emotional resonance to what occurs? Would “Close Enemies” have worked better as a miniseries? Not necessarily. The pace allows for reasonable inroads to be made. Albeit, its focus spins and spurs from what it seems to be about.

As the movie evolves into a whodunnit, the mystery does pick up momentum, and interest begins to increase. Unfortunately, what should be a complicated foray into the grey area of criminality does not quite grip like one.

The ensemble does a believable job with Reda Kateb leading the charge. Manu’s personality is a familiar character for the talented Matthias Schoenaerts, who seems to be getting typecast lately. Unfortunately, “Close Enemies” gets so close to Schoenaerts’ breakout film, “Bullhead,” that it elicits comparisons, and that is not-so-great news for the former.

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“Close Enemies” would have benefited by spending more time on Manu, Imrane, and Driss’ complicated friendship. Instead, it mainly leaves it up to a few angry outbursts. There is a lot left unspoken that needed to be said. A story is ready to be told here. It just remained too much off-screen.

Rating: 6/10

“Close Enemies” (“Frรจres ennemis”) is currently streaming on Netflix.