Hors la loi (Outside the Law) (2010)




Director:     Rachid Bouchareb.

Starring:     Jamel Debbouze (Saïd),  Roschdy Zem (Messaoud),  Sami Bouajila (Abdelkader),  Chafia Boudraa (La mère),  Bernard Blancan (Faivre),  Sabrina Seyvecou (Hélène),  Assaad Bouab (Ali),  Thibault de Montalembert (Morvan),  Samir Guesmi (Otmani),  Jean-Pierre Lorit (Picot),  Ahmed Benaissa (Le père),  Larbi Zekkal (Le caïd),  Louisa Nehar (Zohra),  Mourad Khen (Sanjak), Mohamed Djouhari (L'entraîneur).

three Algerian brothers are forced to go together to Paris, but there they continue the fight for the liberation of Algeria from French control


Spoiler warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Algeria 1925. A boy is working in a field. He sees three people coming and runs to tell his father that the police are coming. A large man in a white outfit tells the farmer that he has a court order stating that: "This land now belongs to the colonist, Mr. Guerini." The father objects that this land has always been the property of his family. The man, Kaid, asks if the dad has any land documents to prove this.?  Dad doesn't have any such thing. So Kaid says he has three days and then he must leave the land. The three young sons stand there not knowing what to do or what will become of them.

The youngest son Saïd tries to comfort his mother. Dad has to tell another son that he will no longer be able to go to school. The son is very upset about this, but father has to tell him that he can no longer pay for his son to attend school. Dad now grabs a handful of dry dirt and says: "Remember, this is your land too. This is your home always. Now, we're being driven from it. May God punish them all."

Paris, May 8, 1945. World War II in Europe has come to an end. People are celebrating in the streets.

Setifr, Algeria, May 8, 1945. There is a big demonstration march through the streets with shouts of: "Free Algeria! Equal Rights."

The boys kicked off their land are now young men. The studious brother Abdelkader tells his brother Saïd that he must come to the demonstration because now they must earn their freedom. Saïd says he's too busy trying to make a living. He is coaching a young boy named Halim in a boxing match.

The police open fire on the demonstrators. Some French civilians also open fire on the demonstrators from their balconies. Two of the demonstrators rush into a town house , run up to the second floor and throw the French shooter off the balcony. A shop owner on the first floor has a shot gun and he aims it at a demonstrator. Another demonstrator comes along and takes the shotgun away. He then shoots the shopkeeper dead. In turn, another Frenchman shoots the Algerian shooter.

The shooting is turning into a massacre as the army joins the killing streets. The army even uses machine guns to mow demonstrators down. And now suddenly the boxing match ends as the spectators run away in fear of being killed by the French. The army even chases the fleeing people in order to kill more and more demonstrators. The French have firing squads that shoot more Algerians. Houses are broken into so searches can be made for demonstrators and possible weapons.

Saïd's brother's hiding place is broken into and he and the family are marched out of the house. Saïd finds his father dead on the street. He goes into the house and only finds his mother alive.

The arrestees are now marched passed rows and rows and rows of dead bodies laid out away on either side of the middle of the road.

Eight years later. Indochina, Summer 1953. Mother writes her son Messaoud informing him that his brother Abdelkader is now in prison in France. Abdelkader is a French paratrooper now. He sits in a plane with his gear  ready for take-off.  Mom writes it has been eight years since she lost saw him. She is happy that Saïd is still with her.

Autumn 1954. The French drop paratroopers from a plane.

Setif. An Algerian assassin shoots two Frenchmen at an outdoor restaurant. Saïd hears the shots and sees the commotion. He goes over to pay a visit to Kaid. He stabs the man in the mid-section saying this if for his father and his sisters. "For your crimes, traitor!" Now Saïd runs to tell his mother that they have to go now to France because there's a war on and the French will kill them. He says all three brothers will be in Paris. He adds that they will later come back to Algeria. Mom says she is staying in Algeria for she feels that she is already dead and she doesn't care what the French do to her.

Paris, Prison de la Sante, spring 1955. A man says he is getting out of prison. He says good-bye to his fellow freedom-fighters. But, in reality, the man is going to be executed via the guillotine. Off goes his head!

Indochina, summer 1955. Messaoud is now a prisoner of the Vietnamese. He is held at a prisoner of war prison.

Nanterre, France. Winter 1955. Saïd and his mother have to move into a real dump of a shack. At night they put cardboard around themselves to keep warm. A lot of the men in the shacks work at the local Renault factory. One of them tells Saïd that they are hiring down there.

Saïd pesters one of the guys that doesn't have to work at the Renault factory until the guy tells him to come along with him to his work.

Mother goes to see her son Abdelkader in prison. She tells her son that he is not in here because he's a criminal, but because of his political beliefs. She tells him to stay strong.

It turns out the fellow who doesn't have to work at the Renault factory makes a living by being a pimp. Saïd now becomes a pimp too.

Six months later. Spring 1956. Messaoud comes home and is greeted warmly by Saïd. Mother greets him next. She is thrilled to see her son again. Mom tells him that Abdelkader will be released soon.

A freedom fighter tells Abdelkader to organize the Algerians in France. He will give the man soon-to- be-free an address. Go there and he will receive instructions.

Abdelkader goes home to see his mother and brothers. The three brothers talk about the revolution coming in Algeria. Saïd talks about how he knows how to make a bundle of money. They will never have to live in poverty again. He asks his brothers are they with him, but they are not. They don't like Saïd's connections to the crime world. Saïd walks away from them.

Messaoud tells Abdelkader that he is leaving the army. He will join forces with his brother.

Messaoud and Abdelkader now work at the Renault factory. Abdelkader talks with the men and tells them that they all need to join the Algerian freedom organization FLN and support the armed struggle. The guys are pushed outside by a Frenchman who says "no politics" here.

Messaoud likes the young woman known as Zohra. She seems to like him too.

Messaoud and Abdelkader try to organize Algerians by going to a local bar where they hang out. They are stopped, however, by the bar tender and several of his friends. They kick Messaoud repeatedly outside, while they question Abdelkader inside the bar.

The bartender demands that Abdelkader say: "Long live the MNA".  Abdelkader refuses to say it. The bartender chokes him and then tells him never to come back to this bar again. And now Abdelkader is thrown out of the bar. The brothers are pretty discouraged because they have not gotten a single recruit for the FLN. But a guy comes out of the bar and tells them that he wants to join the FLN. He says he's heard that the FLN in Algeria has gone underground.

Messaoud gives Abdelkader a piece of strong twine. He tells his brother that he can kill the bartender with this. The three FLN guys now confront the bartender. They read a statement that since Sanjak Mellah will not agree with the FLN, he will be put to death in the name of the Algerian people.

Sanjak grabs a dinner knife to stab the men. Messaoud takes the rope from Abdelkader and strangles the bartender.

The police and National Security investigate the murder. National Security is sure this is because of the fighting between MNA and FLN. The head policeman says this is their case and they don't need the guys from National Security.

Messaoud marries Zohra in Shanty town. The police come to Shanty town and tell everyone to get out.  Saïd sees what's going on and tells his brothers that he has to go now because the police are here.

The police come into the wedding and start frisking the men. Someone im charge tells the police that he wants 10 men to be brought outside. Saïd is still trying to get out of Shanty town. He sees an Algerian knock out two French policemen with just two blows. He asks the mauler if he wants a job?  Yes.

The wedding is over earlier than expected.  Zohra quietly cries. Messaoud is very mad and turns over a table.

The police search the people they chose. The number of people is rather big. They take a guy into custody and then leave.

Abdelkader asks the people: How long will you put ups with this? He tells them: "Rise up against these humiliations!"

Now the brother activists have a lot of people signing up with the FLN. The people take a verbal oath.

One year later. Winter 1957. People are paying their FLN dues. Abdelkader speaks with his brother Saïd and tells him that he wants half ownership of the cabaret the FLN let him start up. Saïd is angry asking how is he going to live? Abdelkader says he has spoken and that's that.

Messaoud asks his mother to please be nice to Saïd. He says the man is starting to change. Mother refuses. Abdelkader calls Messaoud over to him and says he found out that it was Omar who stole the donations. Messaoud wants just to give Omar a warning, but Abdelkader will not hear of it. So Messaoud says he's with his brother.

Messaoud strangles Omar to death. Once outside Messaoud vomits.

Abdelkader goes into a tailor shop and there he learns that the FLN has targeted refineries, factories and depots to be bombed.  Explosions will go off all over France.  In addition, Abdelkader learns that the FLN is going to have him go underground.  The will be moving out of shanty town and away from the Renault factory.  He will be given false papers. 

A young white woman comes to pick up the dues from Abdelkader.  His mother is surprised that a white French woman would be helping them.  Abdelkader turns over 25 million francs to Hélène Hélène brings the money to a priest and they start counting the money.  She tells the priest that she wants to do much more than just pick up money and count it.  The priest says they follow the orders of the Algerians.  And she better hurry up because the money leaves for Switzerland tonight,. 

Messaoud goes to his brother's cabaret called "La Casbah".  When he enters he sees dancing girls performing on stage.  Saïd comes over to greet his brother.  They sit at a table and Messaoud is given money in a paper bag.  He tells Saïd that "This place is no place for you."  Saïd leans over and tells his brother he has his "real" place elsewhere.  It's a training place for boxers.  He takes Messaoud over to the ring where the young man is punching the padded gloves held by another man.  This is the young man Saïd discovered when the guy knocked out two policemen with just two punches.  Saïd says the fellow doesn't have a name just yet.  He's working on the name.  Saïd is proud to say that the kid will be the first Algerian who will be able to knock out both whites and blacks. 

Messaoud tells his brother that he's proud of him.  Saïd uses the opportunity to ask Messaoud to come over and work with him on the gym.  Messaoud doesn't respond.  He just leaves. 

Abdelkader goes with Hélène on her next run.  She takes him to an apartment where she leaves the money on a table.  Then she gives him the keys to the apartment.  Hélène asks Abdelkader to come to see the play at the theatre.  She designs costumes for the plays.  Abdelkader says he has too many things to do.  Hélène leaves. 

In the apartment Abdelkader listens to the radio to hear the news about the FLN bombings.  A newssman says:  "Last night's events are irrefutable proof that within metropolitan France, the FLN now has an infrastructure to carry out large-scale terrorist attacks." 

Abdelkader has Messaoud and another fellow use torture to get two men to spill what they know.   When they are done with the two, they tie the men's hands behind their backs and push them into the river.  Messaoud stays around to make sure the two men drown. 

Abdelkader talks with the tailor to get his latest instructions.  The tailor says that the police crackdown has hindered the goals of the FLN.  The FLN will start killing ten Frenchmen for every Algerian killed.  The tailor now says he has to travel to North Africa and he wants Abdelkader to be his substitute for awhile.  Abdelkader will be getting his instructions from Germany.

Abdelkader points out to Messaoud the police inspector that tortures and kills FLN members.  They plan to kill the inspector in the police station.  For that they will contact Algerian policemen to help them set it up.  Now Abdekader gives his brother a list of the Algerian officers.  Messaoud recognizes the name of Yassir Otmani because once Messaoud saved his life in Indochina.  Abdelkader says:  "We contact him."

At a park Abdelkader speaks with Yassir Otmani.  He says:  "The revolution needs you."  He implies that if the officer doesn't help the FLN, the police might be told who he really is.  He might spend time in prison or he might even be killed by the police.

Zohra is having a baby.  When the baby is born the grandmother brings the child to be held by her son, the father.  Messaoud doesn't seem very excited.  To his brother Abdelkader, he says he never has time for his wife or his son.   Abdelkader says he told him from the start:  "No children." 

The brother are all there to see Saïd's fighter box.  The boxer performs poorly early in the fight, but then suddenly comes alive and knocks out his opponent.  Saïd is overjoyed and rushes into the ring to hug his boxer.  After the fight the two brothers have a talk with Saïd.  They tell him that he has to scrap his plans for making his fighter become the champion boxer of France.  He could become the champion boxer of Algeria, but not France.  The FLN comes first, not Saïd's petty passions.  Saïd refuses to give up.  Abdelkader tells him this is an order, period.  Saïd still won't budge.  So Messaoud asks him what's his fighter going to be worth if he suddenly has no arms or is blind and can't see?  Saïd still says that the match is on.  "Your both crazy."

Outside Abdelkader implies that Saïd has to be killed.  This upset Messaoud and he says he wants to go back to Algeria and get away from what's going on in France.  He does not want to see his brother assassinated.  He puts a pistol in Abdelkader's hand and puts the hand and gun up against his own head and tells Abdelkader to go ahead and kill him before he kills Saïd.

Hélène brings Abdelkader a lot of food.  She asks him to take her out to dinner tonight.  He says he's too busy and she says if he doesn't take her out, she will stop carrying money for him.  Abdelkader won't budge, so Hélène turns on the radio and she starts dancing with the revolutionary leader.  He asks her why has she never married and she says because she has not met her soul mate.  Messaoud arrives and Abdelkader has Hélène leave the apartment. 

Abdelkader shows Messaoud the plan of the police station that Outmani gave him.  Apparently, Abdelkader is going to do the assassination because his brother gives him a pistol.. 

Abdelkader gets inside the police station after being checked out by a guard.  There he meets up with Messaoud.  Abdelkader goes into the office of Mr. Picot and shoots him once in the chest.  He then becomes frozen and can't move.  Messaoud rushes in, grabs the pistol and fires another round into Picot's chest.  They start running.  Messaoud shoots a police officer.  On the way to the door exit, Messaoud shoots another policeman.  Two Algerians outside the station open up on the police with automatic weapons.  By this time everyone in the police station front has dived to the floor to avoid any stray bullets. 

The police are really angry now and they start cracking down on the FLN networks. 

Abdelkader comes back to his apartment and finds Hélène there again.  He throws her out yelling that what she is doing is far too dangerous for her to be here.

Inspector Faivre is now on the case.  They go pester a printer of false documents for the FLN.  The police find the passport for Abdelkader.  Faivre now has the printer arrested.  Faivre gives the command to his police officers to identify this man whose photograph is in the passport.  They find out soon enough that the man is Abdelkader Souni.  Faivre tells his men to watch all the FLN "safe" houses and bring in this Abdelkader fellow.

Messaoud visits his wife and son.  The little boy can already walk on his own. 

Faivre and his men go into "La Casbah".  He tells Saïd that they are closing down his nightclub for security concerns.  Saïd tells his brothers that the police closed down his place and they are looking for Abdelkader Souni.  He tells his brother that they can't be around him anymore.  He leaves. 

Messaoud kidnaps Faivre.  He asks the colonel if he remembered him from the French disaster at Dien Bien Phu?  The colonel gives no reply.  So the men take Faivre to meet with Abdelkader.  The revolutionary leaders tells Faivre that they want him to provide them with information on police operations.  Again Faivre keeps quiet about this. 

When Faivre gets back with his men, he tells them they are starting a secret organization that will appear to be a criminal organization.  So the policemen dressed as civilians start assassinating people connected with the FLN.  And they will all have immunity for whatever their work entails.  The priest is killed.  An Algerian is assassinated.  Faivre tells his men that they will be called the Red Hand.  They will bring fear to the FLN by eliminating its leaders.  They blow up parts of Shanty town.  The two brothers visit with their mother.  She has tuberculosis.  She tells her boys not to worry about her.

Saïd still plans for the boxing match.

The FLN fellows now kill every policeman in two transportation trucks plus the drivers. 

Faivre is disgusted by what he sees.  He says it's an entire Harki unit wiped out.   Faivre says they will get Abdelkader, but in the end France will lose the war. 

Messaoud now tells his mother the truth that he has killed a lot lof people.  He starts crying saying that since he started this whole thing:  ". . . That's all I've known, Ma."  He asks for her forgiveness. 

Abdelkader comes to see Hélène and tells her that she is coming with him to Germany tonight.  Very calmly she says alright.  Abdelkader puts his hand on her shoulder.  They hug and kiss. 

Faivre gets a phone call saying that:  "An Algerian went to the theatre where Hélène Legendre works."  And they think the Algerian is Abdelkader.  Faivre says he will put the "Red Hand" on the job.

Hélène goes to the car first.  Abdelkader watches from an entranceway.  He sees some suspicious activity and fears that Hélène is in deep trouble.  When she starts the engine, the whole car explodes.  Her boyfriend takes off running. 

One year later.  Germany, spring 1960.  Messaoud buys a bus.  The group receives 200 MP 40 submachine guns. 

The men are ready.  Messaoud says that when the mission is completed they each will return to Algeria, but separately.  The men now take off.   

Messaoud drives one bus and Abdelkader the second bus.  The police grab one of the men riding on the subway and take him in for interrogation.  The police figure out he is Algerian.  Now they ask him what was he doing in Germany?  They tell the fellow that they know the FLN operates out of Frankfurt.  Faivre can't make him talk so he turns him over to the Harkis. 

The Harkis get him to talk.  The operation takes place at Valenciennes.  The police rush to their cars and head out.  Outmani calls Saïd to tell him that his brothers have been betrayed.  Warn them!  They are at the Sarlor plant in Valenciennes.  Saïd gets in his car and starts racing to Valenciennes. 

The police arrive and a shoot-out begins.  Both sides start losing men.  Now more policemen arrive behind the gang.  Messaoud fights like a war hero.  Abdelkader keeps hiding as his brother wants him to do.  His brother tells him to get behind him.  Messaoud is wounded.  He grabs his brother and they both jump into Saïd's car.  The three get away, but Messaoud looks like he is going to die.  He tells his brother what to tell his mother and wife and then dies. 

Geneva. Eight months later.  Abdelkader meets with his superiors and they want him now just to lead a peaceful demonstration in Paris next October.  If the French resort to violence, then that will actually help their cause.  They say they will take care of Abdelkader's brother. 

October 17, 1961.  The boxing match will take place.  Faivre is their with his policemen.  The Algiers Kid will be fighting.  Abdelkader comes to the fight.  He sees FLN members hanging around the place.  He finds Saïd and tells him that the FLN is here and they will kill him.  "Stop the fight."

Saïd tells his fighter that there will be no fight tonight.  But the Algiers Kid says he is boxing with or without Saïd.  So Saïd shoots the Kid in the left thigh.  The brothers go toward the ring.  It seems that if the FLN doesn't get them, the police will.  An FLN assassin goes to shoot Abdelkader, but a policeman shoots the FLN assassin first.  Now there is mass pandemonium in the boxing center.  Another man with a gun is shot down.  The brothers run to the subway and get on a car.  Faivre gets to the subway car, but he's too late.  He thinks of shooting the brothers through the glass, but decides he can't take the risk of hitting someone else.  The brothers hug each other.  Algerians are chanting:  "Free, free, Algeria!"

The subway train comes to a station and the brothers see the police beating the demonstrators there.  When the doors open the police rush in and pull out all the Algerians, including the two brothers.  The two brothers try to get free and come together again, but a policeman shoots Abdelkader in the mid-section and the brother goes down.  The revolutionary leader dies.  Faivre arrives and looks over the dead body.  He tells the dead body:  "You've succeeded."  Now Abdelkader will be a martyr to his people.  Next he goes over to Saïd and studies him for a short while. 

July 5, 1962.  Algerian independence.  There's dancing in the streets and lots of flag waving. 


Interesting film because this movie concentrates on the fight for Algerian independence that was waged in France itself.   Three Algerian brothers are involved to different degrees in the struggle for Algerian independence.   What's left of the family gathers in Paris.   The freedom group known as the FLN has established political networks all around France.  The FLN can be called freedom fighters or terrorists because the freedom fighters do use violence in their movement.  The film follows the three brothers as they get more and more involved with the FLN and have to carry out tasks assigned to them from FLN people in Frankfurt, Germany.  Violence leads to more violence and the stakes keep being ratcheted up.  What will become of the three brothers and their family?

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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