The native title of this Belgian crime drama is Le Fidèle (The Faithful), which would have been far better than the slightly misleading Racer and the Jailbird. But a clunky title is the least of its concerns.
The film stars Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd) as lovers, Bibi and Gigi. Bibi is a race car driver, yet she could have had any or no job and the plot wouldn’t have been impacted in the slightest. Gigi is in ‘exports’ and meets her visiting the tracks, immediately asking her for dinner after a plain hello; the pair fall in love as fast as she drives. From here the film divides itself into three chapters, chronicling Gigi’s bank-robbing and Bibi’s pining.
Racer and the Jailbird fails at almost every hurdle. At first, it seems as though they’re trying to be subversive, having Bibi excel at a typically male profession, but after the opening fifteen minutes, her career is hardly revisited. We see more of her in awkwardly framed sex scenes than we do on the race tracks. Her relationship with Gigi, as hard as the two stars try, is simply unbelievable. It either moves miles, or there is no real indication of time having passed. It’s also rather hard to care about their relationship when neither of them are exactly likable. In fact, not a single character in this film is likable.
The cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis is at times beautiful, but it’s not enough to redeem a ridiculously convoluted plot. Racer and the Jailbird has no idea what it wants to be, around an hour in (when it had already felt like forever) it simply descends into madness. It becomes past the point of no return when melodrama takes over and suddenly there are prison breaks, pregnancies, and a terminal illness. Sounds as though they threw in as many clunky plot devices as they possibly could.
Little to no character development didn’t help it’s two historically fantastic leads one bit, however hard they tried the script let them down. Neither Bibi nor Gigi have a personality to speak of, and I don’t remember the names of any supporting characters. I really wanted to like this film, but it was a huge disappointment, with little to no redeeming qualities. Racer and the Jailbird is a spectacularly boring film with no one worth rooting for.
Dir: Michaël R. Roskam
Scr: Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré, Michaël R. Roskam
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Prd: Bart Van Langendonck, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
DoP: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Music: Raf Keunen
Country: Belgium, France
Runtime: 130 minutes
Racer and the Jailbird is available on DVD & BluRay September 10th.