With readers turning to their home viewing options more than ever, this daily feature provides one new movie each day worth checking out on a major streaming platform. Parts of this article were published when “The World Is Yours” premiered at Cannes.
Even at Cannes, where the film world’s brightest spotlight beams down on every movie that’s fortunate enough to premiere there, the occasional banger can still manage to slip through the cracks. Premiering in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar of the 2018 festival, and forced to compete for attention with the likes of “BlackKklansman,” “Shoplifters,” and “Under the Silver Lake” (never forget), Roman Gavras’ “The World Is Yours” didn’t receive the deafening buzz that it deserved, even if both of its big screenings were interrupted by raucous cheers of approval from the audience.
Maybe this wildly infectious French heist comedy was just too much fun to make a splash on the Croisette, and maybe — in the last year of our miserable pre-“Parasite” existence — American distributors were too nervous to risk a flier on something that might have been a massive hit if not for the one-inch barrier of its subtitles. However you slice it, nobody really noticed when Netflix picked up the international streaming rights and quietly uploaded the movie to its platform that December, where it’s been ticking away ever since like a confetti-filled time-bomb that’s just begging for you to blow it up.
And there’s never been a more perfect moment to light that fuse. A hyper-stylish and unexpectedly sweet rebuke to the idea that screwing people is a good way to get ahead, Gavras’ “Our Day Will Come” follow-up was made in response to the me-first mentality that continues to fuel Europe’s refugee crisis, but recent events have made the film’s giddy critique seem just as applicable to the rest of the globe (our corner of it most of all).
In other words, don’t be fooled by the classic film reference baked into its title: “The World Is Yours” is pretty much the anti-“Scarface,” even if both movies agree that maniacal self-interest is a good way to get everybody killed. It’s more like “Sexy Beast,” “Spring Breakers,” and “Little Miss Sunshine” all blended together and served with a lad-rock swagger; it’s the best movie that Guy Ritchie never made.
If Tony Camonte (or Tony Montana) came to the game as a refugee looking to make a name for himself, François (Karim Leklou) was born into a dog-eat-dog underworld full of killers and cheats. François’ mom, Dany (the great Isabelle Adjani), is a pathological con artist and expert safecracker — a thief so consumed by her own self-interest that she pulls off a robbery by using her own son as an unwitting prop. François’ dad isn’t in the picture anymore, but a conspiracy theorist named Henri (a hilarious Vincent Cassel) is happy to play the part, if only because he has a huge crush on Dany.
But sometimes the apple does fall a bit far away from the tree. Hardly the kind of intimidating badass who might command respect (or inspire fear) from a community of lowlifes and mobsters, François is pudgy and polite. His mom insists that he needs to cheat others before they cheat him, but our boy isn’t down for that. “I’m not out to fuck anyone,” he meekly replies. François isn’t cut out for the cutthroat stuff — while others lust for power and sway, all he wants is a shitty house with a pool outside and someone to share it with him. Ideally, that someone would be Lamya (“Divines” star Oulaya Amamra), a spunky Muslim femme fatale who often seems to be channeling Jennifer Love Hewitt’s performance from “Heartbreakers” (a huge compliment, of course).
No idle dreamer, François has a plan: He’s going to become the CEO of a small frozen soft-drink company that operates out of North Africa … or something. The specifics aren’t important — all that matters is that his mom has gambled away the €100,000 he needs to close the deal, and so now he’s gotta do one last heroin-trafficking job for a dog-loving sociopath named Putin. It was timely then, and it’s timely now!
And he’s gonna need a team. So François sets off to the coast of Spain, bringing along Henri, Lamya, and two gung-ho kids named Mohamed. It all goes wonderfully haywire from there, as “The World Is Yours” somehow comes to involve a Scottish drug lord, his tormented young daughter, a Jewish lawyer, a group of 20 bleached-blond Zairian guys, a karaoke singalong of Toto’s “Africa,” and a live grenade in a Hello Kitty backpack. This strange potpourri is strung together on the strength of André Chémétoff’s glossy cinematography and a bouncy score by Jamie XX and Sebastian (fans of the former will recognize many of the stickiest beats).
The sillier things gets, the more Gavras engages with the political and social realities of a divided Europe. Racism is a constant (most of it levied against the Muslim community), but “The World Is Yours” dares to roll with it, eventually even using it as a cudgel against the most prejudiced characters; an immensely satisfying boat raid sequence finds some idiot fishermen mistaking the two Mohameds for wayward migrants, thus opening themselves up to attack. Another killer scene finds our heroes repurposing common stereotypes in order to con the police into helping them out. Friendships are continually forged across national identities and racial lines, as François’ inclusive approach is predicated upon liberating people from whatever oppressive worldview they’ve inhabited from their parents. This stuff is seldom in the foreground, but it’s always sharp as Gavras’ film giddily dances through dangerous material.
As frantic and thrilling as the climactic heist turns out to be, “The World Is Yours” is only such an intoxicating delight because it still manages to make you care about all the people in it. We’re moved by François’ kindness and the gentle modesty of his dreams. We’re moved by the fact that he actually wants to dream them alone. In crime, as in life, the only way to win is to make sure that everyone gets a cut of the action. The world might be run by malignant narcissists who’d sacrifice millions of people in order to retain what’s left of their power, but it belongs to those of us who are willing to share it. Crime has never more absurd.
“The World Is Yours” is available to stream on Netflix.