Pick up a DVD entitled The Dead List, complete with a cover showing a gun-toting Jean Reno against a backdrop of an exploding car, and you can be forgiven for thinking you are about to watch a balls-out action extravaganza, right?

Well, that most certainly is not the case as this French slow-burner spends a whole chunk more time on exposition and scenery than it does on kinetic sequences.

Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but the beer-and-curry brigade definitely need a tip-off that this is not for them.

Reno plays Milo, head of an Armenian crime family that has ruled the underworld in Southern France since the First World War.

Milo relies on his remaining son Anton (Gaspard Ulliel) – his other son was killed in a shootout with police many years ago – and a clan of fellow criminals.

On their tail is cop Saunier (Sami Bouajila), who was present at that previous shooting and has been on their case ever since.

Milo’s syndicate are a clever bunch though, planning their exploits to extreme degrees, leaving Saunier with little, if anything, to go on.

All this becomes complicated though when upstart Anton (who dreams of escaping crime and owning a ranch), starts dating nurse Elodie (Vahina Giocante).

NaturallyMilosees this as both a distraction and a problem and, ruling with a rod of iron, tells Anton that she has to go.

Suddenly the son has to decide whether he will rebel or secede to his father’s demands, all against the backdrop of an impending mega-heist.

As I think I have already made pretty clear, this film is very much about family ties and honour rather than slam-bang action.

Yes, there are a couple of neat set pieces, including an impressive finale at an airport, but the bulk of the running time is taken up by meetings, moody stares and sharp suits.

For that reason things do drag on occasion, and some script tightening would have certainly helped.

There are also some strange decisions taken by characters which jar somewhat – most notably a scene where the ever-cautious Milo elects to try and take out Saunier in broad daylight in public.

The acting is adequate enough, with Reno exuding that same coolness that has carried him through fare like this in the past.

But, in all honesty, the centrepiece of this flick is Ulliel, who takes centre stage for the majority of the film’s scenes and does a good job.

There is nothing particularly wrong with this film, other than director Laurent Tuel’s pacing, but The Dead List is more rainy Sunday afternoon than Friday night entertainment.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.