Julien Neaves – Editor
Greetings folks. So I haven’t done a Caribbean film review in a while and the last few that I have done have all been from my homeland, Trinidad and Tobago. But I consider myself a regional man so I wanted to make an effort to do something from beyond my twin-island shores. And that is how I stumbled upon this gem on Netflix, true crime story Le Gang Des Antillais.
The film, directed by Jean Claude-Barry, who is French but has Guadeloupe and Trinidad roots, tells the story of Jimmy (Djédjé Apali) one of many Martiniquans lured to France in the 1970s with the promise of employment, only to get menial jobs and face rampant racism. Frustrated and finding it difficult to care for his young daughter, Jimmy joins a gang of West Indians robbing post offices.
Firstly the film is not heavy on the “action” or violence. There are just a couple of scenes of actual robberies as well as couple of shoot outs and fist fights. These scenes are tense and very well done, but if you are looking for bullets flying every minute then this is not the movie for you. The film reminded me a few times of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs as the gang dresses in a similar way at one point to the gangsters in that movie, and Claude-Barry employs a similar technique of showing the aftermath of a robbery but not the robbery itself.
In terms of plot Le Gang Des Antillais distinguishes itself from other robbery-based crime dramas by the historical setting (which I was glad to learn about) and the issues of classism and racism. And the different gang members deal with these issues in their own way and have their individual reasons for their criminal lifestyles: one is in it for the money, another to support their drug habit, and another to help fund revolutionaries in their home country.
All the performances are very well done and Apali as Jimmy is a standout. With a character like this you have to strike a balance – he has to be likeable enough to root for him, but not too likeable where he is no longer believable as a hardened criminal. And I was with him throughout this journey. I understood where he was coming from and the things he did. There was a nobility in his criminality and he we also saw the other sides of him – father, surrogate son and lover. Watching the film you just know it was not going to turn out well, but it did not make any less difficult to watch his world and his life unravel.
All in all Le Gang Des Antillais is a well made, well acted, well paced, entertaining and thought provoking film. If you are looking for it on Netflix it is under “Gang of the Caribbean” which is not a direct translation but probably has more universal appeal than “Gang of the Antilles.” And for those of you who hate subtitles there is an English dub, but I prefer subtitles for the more authentic performance. #justsaying
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
For more Caribbean crime drama you can check out Zesser: The Movie here.
Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Instagram as redmanwriter and on Facebook at Movieville