(A.k.a. AVATAR)

Manon (Melanie Thierry, BABYLON AD) travels with her mother Professor Brugen (Marthe Keller, FRAGILE; TIME OF THE WOLF) in a car, the mother bickering with her daughter while trying to keep an eye on the road. Resolving their differences, the two smile and profess their love for one another - and that's when disaster strikes. Or rather, a truck strikes, ramming into Manon's passenger side at high speed.

The mother survives but Manon doesn't make it. Fortunately - for a while at least - this is the near future, where specialist clinics have the ability to re-animate the recently deceased through the wonders of science. The mother is delighted to see Manon alive and well again and, after her initial uncertainty, Manon seems happy with the results too.

Meanwhile, hardened cop David (Albert Dupontel, IRREVERSIBLE) gives chase to serial killer Nicolov (Alain Figlarz, PARIS LOCKDOWN) through Parisian sewers. David's female partner is stabbed by Nicolov and thrown into the nearby water. Diving in to save her, David is shot in the arm and rendered incapable of maintaining his pursuit of Nicolov. Instead, David drags his partner's body out of the water and tries in vain to resuscitate her.

David takes time out to recover from his ideal in the solitude of his apartment, ignoring all calls from work. Eventually his boss turns up and summons him to inspect an unidentified corpse at the police morgue.

The wisecracking coroner informs David that the corpse - a teenaged girl - shows signs of being slain by Nicolov. David's boss tells him he must resume his pursuit of Nicolov and assigns him with a new partner, attractive blonde Marie (Marie Guillard, THE FIFTH ELEMENT).

They set about their investigations into the girl's identity and Nicolov's whereabouts by visiting Yuri (Francis Renaud, 36), a sleazy mole used by David, who they find crouched masturbating in a futuristic porno booth. After a bit of old-fashioned police brutality, Yuri confesses to recognising the girl as Tatiana, but insists that's all he knows.

David gives Yuri the task of embarking into the murky Parisian underworld to find out whatever he can regarding the girl's background and why Nicolov murdered her. In particular, David is keen to get his hands on anyone baring the same odd tattoo that is found around Tatiana's right eye.

With Yuri's help, David and Marie are able to catch up with Nicolov and apprehend him. Although they are able to confirm that Nicolov's fingerprints are on Tatiana's body, their boss seems oddly reluctant to condemn Nicolov - which is unfortunate, as David shoots Nicolov when he attacks Marie in his cell.

Crumbs. Inevitably, David is forced to hand over his gun and badge as a result.

But that doesn't deter him and Marie from working ever closer together in finding out the truth behind the mysterious Tatiana's death. Their investigations eventually lead them to a certain clinic, a respected professor, her volatile re-animated daughter and a futuristic piece of headgear called the Chrysalis machine, designed to give and take away people's memories …

CHRYSALIS is an extremely stylish and considered film from director Julien Leclerq (TRANSIT). The visual effects are good for their low budget, competently helping to evoke a nourish world of near-future technology and the paranoia that has been borne into it.

A nuanced colour scheme gives the film a further distinctive feel, lending itself to the stylised and strongly choreographed action sequences well. All in all, the film is a triumph of design - despite the fact that visually it's very reminiscent of previous sci-fi noir efforts such as BLADE RUNNER and, to an extent, DARK CITY.

Elsewhere, visual ideas are pilfered from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (including a very obvious homage where one character has their eyes pinned wide open with hooks). While on a thematic level, films such as ROBOCOP and FREEJACK spring to mind as well as those already mentioned.

Dupontel is excellent as usual in the lead role, looking like he's got some intensive physical training in to buff up for the role. Although the acting is solid throughout, it's fair to say he's the only cast member who really registers.

And therein lies CHRYSALIS's major flaw: for all its sheen and style, it's explosive shootout scenes and timely themes, it has an undeniably flat delivery that fails to excite at any point. Perhaps it's because the cop plot (the cop who loses his partner and is initially reluctant to warm to their replacement; handing in the gun and badge after breaking the rules; corruption and conspiracy uncovered) is so by-the-numbers and takes centre-stage when really more emphasis on Manon's unfortunate developments would have been more intriguing. Perhaps it's simply that it's impossible not to experience déjà vu throughout watching CHRYSALIS.

Whatever, CHRYSALIS dips in the mid-section then slightly redeems itself for an unusual ending. It's not bad, a fairly interesting film that's not good enough to rank alongside the best films France has had to offer us so far this decade.

The disc opens with trailers for VEXILLE: AD2077, NEVER BACK DOWN and TEETH.

Beyond those, we get a nice animated menu that gives access to static sub-menus, including a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.

The film looks very good in it's uncut 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, with sharp images and deliberately subdued colours.

Audio is presented in a good French 5.1 mix with forced English subtitles.

The only extras on offer or a half-decent 26-minute Making Of featurette offering lots of behind-the-scenes footage alongside film clips, plus a 1-minute theatrical trailer. The former is presented in French mono with forced English subtitles, while the latter boasts English narrated audio.

A so-so film on a so-so disc.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Momentum Pictures
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review