Magazine article Screen International

Mercenary': Cannes Review

Magazine article Screen International

Mercenary': Cannes Review

Article excerpt

Fr. 2016. 103mins

In Mercenary (Mercenaire), a 19-year-old yough built like a tattooed refrigerator is scouted from New Caledonia to play rugby for a club in France - a mere 10,000 miles away. Writer-director Sacha Wolffelicits effective performances from an almost entirely non-professional cast in this eventful tale of standing up for oneself in tricky circumstances. This offbeat and involving mini-saga of self-reliance is a nice bet for festivals and art house distributors tempted by a story centered on people of Polynesian heritage who may be French citizens but are inevitably seen as exotic outsiders.

The stocky Wallisian build is ideal for the position of prop forward (they form a minority community in New Caledonia). When the first choice of sports talent scout Abraham (Laurent Pakihivatau) is arrested he plucks Soane (Toki Pilioko) offthe field and offers him a position on a French mainland team. Unlike in most sports dramas, Soane doesn't seem driven to turn pro. This unexpected opportunity would take him a world away from the tropical vistas of his low-key island home. Soane is tempted but says his father, Léoné (Petelo Sealeu, riveting), will object.

Léoné, a tough buzzard who keeps his rifle handy, objects alright. When Soane announces that he's leaving anyway, fierce disciplinarian dad gives him a vicious, scarifying, whipping with an electrical cord, holds a religious ceremony and farewell feast, then declares his son dead and chases him offhis property.

When Soane arrives in France, the local rugby team official takes one look, deems him too short and 20 kilos too light and advises Soane to fly right back where he came from. …

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