Lupine part 2 review | A quick, stylish and irresistible crime hug
Through: Michael hogan
Warning: thieves are operating in this area. But when they’re as cheeky charming as this one, we’ll close our eyes. Yes, my friends, the Parisian mystery thriller about a so-called “gentleman burglar” is back for the highly anticipated Lupine Part 2.
When the first five episodes came out in January, Light-Fingered Lupine stole the hearts of viewers around the world and became an audience surprise. It was watched by 70 million households in 28 days, making it the most watched non-English series on Netflix. Now back to the scene of the crime.
Inspired by the adventures of the debonair “burglar” Arsène Lupine – often described as the French counterpart of Sherlock Holmes – the suspenseful series follows 21st century master thief Assane Diop (played with a mischievous wink by the now-turned comedian. Hollywood star Omar Sy) on his mission to rob the rich and right a tragic injustice, inspired by the escapades of his literary hero.
Assane’s father, Babakar, was accused of a crime he did not commit 25 years ago and committed suicide in prison out of shame, leaving poor teenage Assane orphaned. Now he has grown up and decided to take revenge on the corrupt and creepy tycoon Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre). You can tell Pellegrini is wrong because he ostentatiously smokes big cigars and his pig eyes shine with greed.
Assane aims to use his formidable sleight of hand and subterfuge skills to expose Pellegrini’s crimes and clear his father’s name. Like the dashing Lupine, who wore a cape, monocle and top hat, his modern-day disciple prides himself on performing stunts with a panache worthy of a showman.
Five months ago, we found ourselves hanging on a dying cliffhanger, as Assane’s teenage son Raoul (Etan Simon) was kidnapped by Pellegrini’s sadistic henchman. The story picks up at exactly the same time, as the desperate Assane teams up with an unlikely partner to set out in pursuit of the bucolic Normandy countryside.
With his family’s safety on the line, he must come up with a new plan and quickly, even if it means falling into a death trap on purpose. If anyone can achieve the impossible, it must be our ingenious hero.
Once back home in Paris – the city looks so lovely it really should share the headliner – Assane steps up his elaborate plan to bring down Pellegrini. Small problem: he is now a fugitive, splashed in the news as “the most wanted man in France”. The police and the thugs of Pellegrini approach quickly. Could the artist’s chance for the consummate escape finally run out?
The five new episodes are often extremely tense, including shootings and strangulations, foot chases and firebombs. There are deadly fight scenes and a spooky chase through the skull-packed catacombs beneath the capital. Assane steals a painting by Pisarro from the Musée d’Orsay, “borrows” a valuable violin, pays accomplices with stolen diamonds and picks pockets with worrying ease.
Remembering the Baker Street consultant detective, Assane circles the hapless police. The only cop with a clue is geeky outcast detective Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab), another fan of the Lupine books. He becomes Eve at La Villanelle d’Assane, Lestrade at his Holmes. As they play cat and mouse, the couple develop a cute, odd couple chemistry.
Again, like the reboot of Conan Doyle directed by Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupine updates a classic creation with contemporary technology. Assane is a cybercrime expert who uses hacking, CCTV, smartwatches, drones, and deepfakes as part of his arsenal. As in Sherlock, flashbacks and stills show how he performs his heists. Whenever you wonder how he did it, he helpfully shows it to you.
The gripping episodic stories are strung together with melancholy flashbacks to Assane’s youth and his burgeoning romances with the two women in his life: ex-girlfriend Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), Raoul’s mother, and Pellegrini’s daughter Juliette. (Clotilde Hesme). These interludes are surprisingly emotional. The same is true of Assane’s father-son links with Babakar and Raoul.
The grand finale takes place at the opera house of the Théâtre du Châtelet, where Lupin’s first play was performed in 1911. “Now it’s our turn,” smiles Assane. “This is our last show and Pellegrini will be over.” The ensuing confrontation arouses several surprises and unfolds like a pre-Brexit James Bond, complete with tuxedo and speedboat.
Of course, the boy’s own plot is often implausible, and the dialogue at times hammy. Assane’s lair where he keeps his costumes looks like Phoenix Buchanan’s attic in Paddington 2. The absolute 6-foot-3 unit’s ability to disguise itself with joke shop teeth or a sticky mustache is hinting at. He has an adorable dog called J’Accuse, who is trained to bark whenever he hears Pellegrini’s name.
However, Omar Sy is so charismatically boastful that complaining about a lack of logic seems rude. He works a dapper line of designer sportswear and baker’s boy caps. Surprisingly, this deeply Gallic series has a British showrunner in George Kay (Killing Eve, Criminal: UK). Maybe he’s behind Assane’s fondness for Fred Perry.
There are even political nuances if you’re inclined to seek them out. The Senegalese immigrant family Diop is the victim of racism, even though Assane often turns his social invisibility to his advantage. He is furious at the “abuse of power” when Pellegrini’s government cronies withdraw him on fraud charges. Such semi-serious sub-texts never interfere with the playful action, mind you.
French television is very chic right now, with star-studded comedy Call My Agent a lockdown hit – and now a possibly reckless British remake. Gritty police procedural spiral and spy saga The Bureau has also dedicated cult followers. (I’ll keep my advice on the execrable Emily in Paris).
With its cinematic brilliance and addicting thriller appeal, Lupine is the successful addition to the cross-Channel canon. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets Robin Hood. Luther with a raised eyebrow and a nicer coat.
A tip: Netflix automatically plays the dubbed English version, which has cheesy overtones and distracting lip-syncing. You better switch to the French original with English subtitles, which is a lot cooler anyway.
Ooh-la-la and other Frenglish phrases. Lupine part deux is a fast paced, elegant and utterly irresistible crime hug. Wait, where did my wallet, watch, and phone go? Damn then.
Lupine Part 2 hits Netflix on Friday, June 11 – check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.
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