Marseille (2016) – Netflix Goes for the Global Market

Ever been to Marseille? Marseille is France’s second biggest city after Paris.

Marseille is France’s main Mediterranean port city. My very first trip to Europe was 30 years ago. We flew into Nice, and when the idea of visiting Marseille came up, I was told that it was a dirty city, filled with drugs, hookers, and the Mafia had a strong presence there. In short, way too dangerous.

So we skirted around Marseille. Even though we virtually traversed all of France’s southern coast and coastal areas; we visited Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nimes, Beziers, Narbonne, and Perpignan – we did not set foot in Marseille.

Now, Netflix has premiered an original series entitled Marseille, just four days ago, on May 5th. Billed as a tale about the long time Mayor of Marseille who is preparing to hand over the reins to his protegé when a sudden and ruthless battle erupts for control of the city; this may make you think of the Kelsey Grammer show, Boss, about a fictional Mayor of Chicago, which aired on Starz a few seasons back.

We can call Marseille a cousin of that show, and we’d also be forgiven if we attempted to compare Marseille to House of Cards. But in either comparison, Marseille falls way short. Robert Taro is no Frank Underwood.

In fact, Marseille cannot and should not be mentioned in the same breath as those other two series. Starring one of France’s most famous actors – Gerard Depardieu as Mayor Robert Taro, this is a series with high production values. Watch for the breathtaking shots taken from high above Marseille, and the multitude of on-location shoots. In fact I’d venture to say that very little of this show was shot in a studio.

It is almost as if the city of Marseille is a character itself. Only most of these shots are simply transitional. There are no long range zooms taking us from the sky right into a conversation on a park bench.

Netflix wants desperately to gain a lion’s share of the global market, and this French production is the latest of their ventures.

Depardieu is now nearly 30 years older, and maybe 40 to 60 pounds heavier than he was when he starred as a city man who brings his family to the South of France in the wonderful 1986 film Jean de Florette.

But aging and gaining weight is not a phenomenon (or a crime). It is the natural order of things. As the Mayor of Marseille, Taro is more of an institution than a new face on the horizon. His Deputy Mayor, Lucas Barres (played by Benoit Magimel) was hand-picked, and groomed as Taro’s successor many years ago.

Now Magimel has a face that is not unique in fact, if you look at the quad image above, you will see that Magimel looks like a he could be the offspring of David McCallum who starred as Illya Kuryakin in a tv series called The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and/or the British rock star Rod Stewart.

Now Taro is ready to leave the political arena and has worked quite hard to set in motion a new development project as his outgoing gift to the city. He wants to convert a section of the port to an area that would contain luxury apartments and hotels, top-drawer restaurants, upscale shopping, and of course a casino.

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36th Precinct

Take two cops. One heads up the Anti-Crime Unit (OCU) and the other is the head honcho of the tactical unit (BRI). When the Police Commissioner decides to step away and head off to his retirement, the Chief of Detectives is going to go upstairs and take over the huge corner office replacing the Commissioner. Before he does so, he tips off both of his top cops that one of them is going to get the nod to fill his position.

But the Chief of Detectives has a local mess on his hands. That would be the crime wave of armored car robberies likely committed by the same gang. The C of D tells his men, that he wants this gang busted. He wants them to go out of business, and he doesn’t care if they’re dead or alive – but he does warn his guys about the police procedures and the expectations.

The OCU guy is a bad-ass. He’s corrupt, he’s brutal, he won’t take no for an answer, and there’s nothing he won’t do to capture these guys who are running all over town taking down scores like the gang in Heat. He also drinks to excess, and if bed-hopping around town and cheating on your wife wasn’t bad enough, this guy is also having an affair with one of his subordinates.

The BRI Tactical guy is a different animal. He’s fearless, he tougher than tough, he adores his wife and their daughter, The wife was at one time was the girl friend of the OCU guy. So right away you know that the sparks are going to fly. But our Tactical guy is also loyal to his men, and to his snitches.

One day, he’s going to get a call from a guy who is getting a weekend furlough from prison. Our BRI guy was the one who got this guy captured and incarcerated. But this guy says he can break the case about the armored car robberies for this detective. In exchange he needs an alibi.

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