When a police informant is gunned down, a determined vice cop must recruit a new stool pigeon-one that can finally take down the unassailable mob boss. The line between the cops and gangsters becomes blurred as Dédé (Phili... more »ppe Léotard-The French Connection II), a charismatic pimp, is forced to 'rat out' his former boss and nemesis, the elusive Massina. Remarkable performances, especially from Nathalie Baye (Catch Me if You Can) as Dédé's girlfriend, helped La Balance sweep the César Awards.« less
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 01/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the opening scene a man walks amid the bustle of the seedier side of Paris and as he heads down a dark street he is suddenly gunned down. As they investigate the scene of the crime the police find the job was done by a professional and so they have no clues to work with. The only way to solve the crime is to rely on a network of informants. Problem is the man murdered was their key informant and everyone on the street knows it and so getting people to talk will not be easy.
The cops in this movie are never shown talking to any women but prostitutes. They hassle the women that work the streets but also eye them with lust. The prostitutes are an excellent source of information and in this film they all happen to be beautiful so a certain relationship develops between the cops and prostitutes which is not solely based on doing good police work. The lead cop is played by a Pacino lookalike and he has his eye on one prostitute in particular. And she is the real star of this film. Every time we see her she is wearing a different colored wig and looks strikingly different and she plays both sides of the law exceedingly well. Problem is she has a lover already, and that lover, the head cop soon realizes, is the key to finding their murderer. The cops go to work on these two, working one against the other, until they get their information but are these lovers really turning against each other or not? The Pacino lookalike cop has two ends in mind--bust the murderer and get the girl-- but as the film progresses it become less and less clear just which objective is a higher priority. The film is subtle and those used to American cop movies will find the going slow. Though there is one very exciting bust which leads to a shootout in a densely populated intersection most of the film is about character and each one is fleshed out in a gradual way giving the film an intriguing momentum with lots of memorable and telling moments but the director never gives us the complete picture, only pieces that could fit together in different ways. In the end we know who the very bad bad guys are and the very good good guys are but in between dwell some which are a bit of both. A very solid and very subtle drama.
Made in 1982 the film has a kind of new wave look and soundtrack, that added to the fact that most of the cops as well as the crooks are charmers with charismatic likeable personalities perhaps makes the film seem lighter than it really is. But its the directors refusal to spell everything out for us which gives the film its unusal force. And if you like this film I recommend another excellent French cop film called Tchao Pantin directed by Claude Berri in 1985. Both films were Cesar(French Oscar)Winners."
Superb French crime drama
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 09/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by an American ex-pat, Bob Swaim (who also helmed Half Moon Street with Sigourney Weaver), this terrific film stars Natalie Baye, Philippe Leotard, Christophe Malavoy, and Tcheky Karyo. Set in Paris, the title is a slang term for a rat, a stoolie, a criminal who squeals on his associates to les flics (cops). At the beginning of the film, an affable man is gunned down in cold blood; he was a 'balance', as it turns out, and the local crime boss, Massina, doesn't like people who rat. Massina's top thug, Petrovic, is an ultra-violent maniac who kills just to know people will die because of him. The two of them are up against a group of flics--Beige, Captain, and a few more--who want Massina bad. Real bad.Meanwhile, Dede, a smalltime pimp, is hooked up with Nini, his hooker. They're in love, and they know the criminal underground like the backs of their hands. It's their involvement in this world that constantly tests their feelings for each other and that supplies a lot of dramatic tension in the film. Dede is forced by the flics to go back to Massina who previously threw him out of the gang, and Nini gets involved in the sting also, but apart from Dede.This is not a crime drama for nothing. There are some scenes that punch their violence in your face, but they're extremely effective. This film won a few Cesars in France (French equivalent of Oscars) and it's easy to see why. The dialogue is very sharp; in fact, if you don't speak French, it's easy to miss some of the very punchy lines that flash by in English subtitles. There's a lot of biting sarcasm and it's very smart stuff. The characters snap, crackle and pop with energy and emotion, and they're far from one-dimensional.Terrific crime drama, and a real shame it's not on DVD."
Celine | dogtown | 03/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Excellent! I lived in Paris around the time this was filmed. It is realistic and gives a good view of the police and life in certain parts of Paris. Leotard playing Didi is perfect casting. Richard Berry plays a Frenchman first and a detective second. It is really a good character study. I knew people like him in Paris. The crime drama is very good and unlike the clear cut good guy bad guy we see so much in American films. Sometimes you have sympathy for the pimp and sometimes for the cops. It is probably one of the best crime dramas made in that era."
Superb French Cop movie
Arckitekt | Boston | 04/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A film of style that keeps its feet on the ground. The themes were based around the police department in the Paris of the early 80's. There are some really delicate moments mixed into the hardships of a couple trying to survive their alternate lifestyle on the streets as they become caught between the vengeance of other criminals and the law. Beats the pants off 90% of the US cop movies out there"
French cops and a Paris the tourist does not see.
steve b | Dudley England | 12/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A French crime thriller fronm the eighties to match the classics from the fifties. The film opens with the brutal murder of a police informer in the Belleville area of Paris. The police plan to catch the local criminal boss by turning a pimp (Philippe Leotard) into an informer (balance). Leotard and his prostitute girlfriend (Nathalie Baye) are portrayed as victims of a ruthless policeman (Richard Berry) who will use them anyway he can to get the result he wants. Indeed this film can be classed as a love story betweeen Leotard and Baye as well as very good crime thriller.
Set in a Paris that the tourist never sees, the police are brutal, racist and in fact little different from the criminals they hunt. Nathalie Baye is as beautiful as always and both Berry and Leotard play their roles well. Tchety Karyo (The Core and The Patriot) in an early role plays one of the gangsters.
Stylish and slick with realistic violence, La Balance combines the best of American and French crime films, perhaps because the director Bob Swaim is an American.
If you enjoy crime or gangster films and do not mind a bit of moral ambivalence you will enjoy this movie.