A dedicated French drug enforcement agent fights a hopeless battle to win the “War on Drugs.” [ L.627 credits: Dir: Bertrand Tavernier/ Didier Bezace, Jean-Paul Comart, Charlotte Kady/ 145 min/ Drama, Foreign Language/ France/ In French with English subtitles/ Legalize Drugs, Working for Government]
Apparently the futile and counterproductive nature of the “War on Drugs” is an international phenomenon. This French film portrays the working life of one of the “good guys,” a policeman who does his best to rid the streets of illegal drugs. Despite his hard work he accomplishes nothing, and the corrupting character of the law degrades him and everyone in his department. As he says of himself and his fellow drug warriors near the end of the film, “We’re all zeroes.”
His drug enforcement agency operates much like the U.S. Post Office. It’s undercapitalized (because money earmarked for it is spent instead on new carpet and floral arrangements at the head office) and the staff is demoralized, corrupt, and lazy. But it’s the Post Office with the authority to use force, so it’s physically abusive of the citizenry as well.
At times the effect of all this is humorous, funny because it’s true. But the emotion this film evokes most is pity—pity for the well-meaning but hopelessly misled policeman, pity for the drug addicts who must prostitute themselves to pay the artificially high price of drugs, pity even for the Third World pushers, whose misguided ambition to make money from drugs draws them into a dangerous and unhappy criminal lifestyle.
Despite the film’s length of almost two-and-a-half hours, it’s really more a detailed portrait than a story. Nothing much changes by the end, but of course that’s the point. The “War on Drugs” is necessarily never-ending because it feeds on itself. L.627 is in many respects a well made film, with effective use of music, an uncompromised focus on the subject, and a sense of irony. However, it’s also long and mostly downbeat, likely to appeal most to aficionados of European cinema.
“In his remarkable new film L.627, Bertrand Tavernier takes an impassioned inside look at the day-to-day activities of a small, ill-equipped branch of the Paris Drug Squad. With extraordinary documentary realism, the director has produced one of his best and most challenging films.”