When tough-guy Ruby (Jean Reno) steals first his wife then an armoured vanload of cash from vicious bad-guy Vogel (Jean-Pierre Malo)'s gang of thieves, the cops get him before Vogel can. But Vogel kills his wife for her indiscretion. In prison for the robbery, Ruby is put in a cell with the happy go lucky, simpleminded and talkative petty crim Quentin (Gerard Depardieu). Quentin wants to be friends, but Ruby just wants to be alone. Quentin arranges a bizarre escape for the two of them, spoiling Vogel's special welcome intended for Ruby, who has hidden the 20 million French Euros from the heist. The two mis-matched escapees have a series of mini adventures as they run from the cops and Vogel's henchmen. Ruby wants to avenge the woman he loved and take the money, while Quentin dreams of a little café they could run together in a quiet neighbourhood, The Two Friends.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Francis Veber gets away with murder in this buddy-action-comedy; there's a dead body within the first few minutes, and the tone is serious. Indeed, the opening sequences are joltingly juxtaposed, from grave to comedic, in a confident juggle that perfectly establishes both Depardieu's Quentin and Reno's Ruby.
The former is a blabbermouth with a soft heart and a dumb head, while the latter is a hard-bitten crim with a laconic manner. That's right, total opposites. Bound to work as a comedy, especially as the milieu is ripe for it: a prison, a prison psychiatric ward, criminals seeking revenge, cops seeking criminals, and criminals seeking their dreams.
The script is clever, albeit with a tendency for perfunctory jumps when needed, but it's in the service of pace, which is excellent. But it's the perfectly pitched performances and the taut, acid-dry direction (and editing) that make this film so entertaining. Depardieu, half his (over)weight here, manages to convey Quentin's soul through his eyes; a man who seems gormless and chattery, yet he's no fool, nor malicious. Nor meek and mild, as anyone who gets in his way discovers. His charm comes from a bizarre combination of innocent brawn and dreamy romantic. Reno's Ruby makes the biggest journey, from the cool, efficient solo crim to the buddy you want to have.
Veber gives his stars many great opportunities to work their magic as the odd couple who can't manage without each other in risky situations. It's what Veber leaves out (to our imaginations) that makes the film slip so effortlessly across the thin ice of violence inside the comedy. And the comedy is effortlessly engaging, strung on a tight wire of the caper subplot. Some moments are inspired lunacy, like the prison escape by crane, and scenes in the prison when the prison authorities are trying to find Quentin a suitable cell mate.
With its many laugh-out-loud moments, Tais-Toi! (shut up!) just won't keep you quiet.
Review by Louise Keller:
An endearing odd-pairing comedy from Francis Veber, Tais Toi! is lively screwball fun. It may not have the bite of Veber's The Dinner Game, one of my favourite French comedies, but the film is short and very sweet. The performances are delightful, and watching Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno together is a joy.
The script takes the basic premise and stretches it for all its worth, with our attention taken by the development of the relationship between Depardieu's nincompoop Quentin and Reno's ruthless killer. The humour builds up, as the unlikely couple are thrown together, each one somehow managing to draw out the best in the other. Ah yes, isn't that the perfect match - that unlikely couple that manages to do the impossible. How can a killer make an idiot feel clever? And how can an idiot find the good in a killer with no conscience?
We first meet Quentin on the job, as he is staging a hold-up. Pity is, in his confusion, he has held up a money exchange, which only has Japanese Yen on offer, not the sought after Euros. When he is directed to a nearby bank to stage his hold up, we clearly get the idea - here is a very simple mind at work. But there is not a malicious bone in his body. There are plenty of laughs as he is shuffled from cell to cell (driving other prisoners mad with his incessant chatter about topics as diverse as chewing on one side of your mouth to horse impressions), and the scene with the prison psychiatrist intent on assessing him with a blot test, is hilarious.
When Quentin is consigned to Ruby's cell, although Ruby doesn't utter a single word and just stares ahead as if in a mindless trance, Quentin interprets his silence as interest in all his banter, and quickly adopts him as his buddy. The situations become more and more bizarre, and when Quentin and Ruby somehow escape from the loony asylum to which they have been committed (in circumstances that you will have to see to believe), the hunt is on - from the cops and crims. How the protagonists end up in women's clothing is a sight gag that is beautifully executed, without overstating the gag.
Tais-toi! ('shut up') is good-hearted fun that takes simple ideas and works them into funny business. The pathos is kept to a minimum; the accent is having a good time with two unlikely characters that somehow, against all the odds, become buddies.
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CAST: Gerard Depardieu, Jean Reno, Jean-Pierre Malo, Jean-Michel Noirey, Andre Dussolier, Laurent Gamelon, Aurelien Recoing, Vincent Moscato, Ticky Holgado
PRODUCER: Said Ben Said
DIRECTOR: Francis Veber
SCRIPT: Francis Veber (Serge Frydman idea)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luciano Tovoli
EDITOR: Georges Klotz
MUSIC: Marco Prince
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dominique Andre
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 8, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman/AV Channel
VIDEO RELEASE: December 22, 2004