‘The Fall of the American Empire’ Review: A Satirical Take on the Crime Story

In the opening scene of “The Fall of the American Empire,” written and directed by the veteran French-Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand, a young philosopher Pierre Paul (Alexandre Landry) waxes indignant to his bank-teller girlfriend, Linda (Florence Longpré), about how intelligence has nothing to do with success. Chief executives rise to the top because they sell untruths persuasively. What about successful intellectuals, Linda asks. They were idiots too, he insists, pointing out the personal failings of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

She tells him, “63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.”

He pouts back, “Imbeciles worship cretins.”

The lunch doesn’t end well.

But afterward, Pierre Paul, who works as a package delivery man, stumbles onto a robbery in which millions are almost literally dropped in his lap. And this man who gives generously to the homeless and volunteers at a soup kitchen decides to make something of his ill-gotten gains. He’s read Tolstoy and others, so he should know this sort of thing hardly ever works out. But with the help of a former biker gang leader with a knack for finance (Rémy Girard) and an escort with a heart of you know what (Maripier Morin), he’s going to give it his best shot.

With its galloping pace and strange criminal bedfellows, this funny and engrossing film sometimes feels like the droll capers of the Ealing studio (maker of “The Lavender Hill Mob” among other small classics). But Arcand packs in a lot of pointed social and political commentary. Including a demonstration of how, when you want to commit a really complicated crime, you are best off seeking capitalism itself as an ends to accomplish it — entirely legally.

The Fall of the American Empire

Rated R for themes, language, violence, un soupçon du sexe. In French and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 7 minutes.

The Fall of the American Empire

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