A Prophet (Jacques Audiard) 2009

Malik (Tahar Rahim) is a young Arab sent to prison for six years. He is thrust into a situation where he has to kill another inmate. In exchange for doing it, he gains protection in prison from the Corsican mob. During his stay he learns more about the drug trade, gains more responsibilities in the mob, and even starts his own drug trade.

Right from the box cover, the makers set your expectations a tad high by comparing it to The Godfather. Lower them right back down to more realistic expectations of a quite good movie. Not everything has to be The Godfather. Okay, so onto discussing the movie.

I really liked the first third of the movie. In it we see Malik thrown into the prison system like a true fish out of water. He is young, uneducated, and not the same class of criminal as the killers and drug traffickers he is confined with. The conflict comes up when the Corsican mob comes up with a proposition: either kill a snitch in protective custody or they will kill Malik. Malik doesn’t want to be a part of the mob or kill anyone and tries everything to get out of it to no effect. There is a ton of tension then when he has to plan the murder by hiding a razor blade in his mouth. It is a really intense section.

Then the rest of the movie kind of loses steam. In kind of GTA storyline fashion, Malik gets bigger and bigger jobs and he eventually gets a drug trade of his own. The problem is, it is a little too easy for him to be a drug kingpin. Now I get what the director is going for in that Malik is a quick learner and picks things up over the course of his prison time. However he just starts up his own crime organization and has no (what I perceive to be) real challenges to his business. There is also more about a plot between the Corsican mob, the Italian mob, and Muslim drug runners. This part is a bit muddled and hard to follow. Plus it doesn’t quite have the same impact as the first part. The first part was exciting because it was Malik fighting for his very survival. The rest of the movie deals with the politicking and earning more money. That is not as interesting.

There are a few other things I didn’t quite get on my first viewing. The main thing is a rather strange tangent that Malik is somehow gets more spiritual during his stay at prison. It is rather odd that the more crime Malik commits (including murder) the movie portrays him as being more spiritual; a prophet (as the title says). Now I could be completely misinterpreting the directors vision and like I said in the beginning of the paragraph, I don’t really get it. The message could have flown completely over my head, but I think that part was too vague to a fault.

The acting is very good. Tahar Rahim has to carry this movie as the main character and he succeeds. He has to play a complete character arc from naïve teen to toughened crime boss and he does it very well. I especially like Niels Arestrup as the prison mob boss Cesar. He is very intimidating when he wants to be but also shows subtle signs of insecurity and weakness.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression because I have criticized this movie for most of my review. A Prophet is a solid crime film. It is not The Godfather. This movie has some flaws keeping it down and (at least for me) doesn’t have much replay value. But it has good performances and has some very interesting parts to it. I do recommend this movie if you are a fan of these kinds of movies.

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