Directed By: Maïwenn

Starring: Karin Viard, Joeystarr, Marina Foïs, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Karole Rocher, Emmanuelle Bercot, Frédéric Pierrot, Arnaud Henriet, Naidra Ayadi, Jérémie Elkaïm, and Maïwenn

Our society has a way of turning some of our more serious problems or struggles in life into entertainment.  Reality TV is a prime example of this.  It's turned love and relationships into a joke with shows like The Bachelor and Flavor of Love.  It's turned family life into a gag with shows like Wife Swap and Supernanny.  It's even turned child molestation into fun and games with shows like To Catch a Predator.  With never-ending distortions of much harsher realities on TV, it's so refreshing when something comes along to emphasize that these issues are not just entertaining.  Maïwenn's Polisse is a great example of this.  It reminds us that child molestation is not a game.

The Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Paris police department is tasked with protecting the children of the city from the adults in their lives when necessary.  When photo journalist Melissa (Maïwenn) is assigned to follow the CPU for an upcoming article on their work, she gets far more than she bargained for.  She sees how the close-knit group operates — their camaraderie, their antics, and their dedication to the job.  She sees how they skillfully deal with abusive parents who rape or otherwise hurt their children, hypersexual teens on the road to prostitution or some other horrible life, and other cops who don't view the work they do as "real police work".  She sees how the job takes a personal toll on each and every one of the cop's lives, especially Nadine (Karin Viard) and Iris (Marina Foïs).  Melissa even manages to have an affair with CPU officer Fred (Joeystarr).

Polisse is one of the most captivating police dramas I've seen in a long while.  Maïwenn has crafted something really special here that showcases how the good Lord works through these CPU officers.  It highlights so many deplorable situations that these cops face on a daily basis.  A mom is giving her toddler son blow jobs so he can sleep at night.  A blindfolded dad is living out all his sexual fantasies with his young daughter.  A recently released ex-convict abducts her infant son and drops him on the cold, unrelenting concrete of the sidewalk.  This is just a taste of their daily horrors, and Maïwenn introduces each of these cases with grace and class, no matter how abominable they may be.

What really works for Polisse is that it focuses on the cops and not the crooks.  It feels like one big television show with no central case.  Yes, there's plenty of drama with each new wild case that comes their way, but the real story Maïwenn brings to light is the struggle of being on the front lines fighting to protect the children of the city, the struggle to make a difference even when there seems to be no hope.  Through divorce, separation from one's children, or some otherwise lonely life, Maïwenn highlights the personal toll of the job.  She needs a talented group of actors to do this though.  Karin Viard, Marina Foïs, and Joeystarr deliver the emotional performances needed to pull this off in this ensemble flick.

Something else that's important in the film is the pacing of dialogue.  Given that I don't speak French, I'm very surprised that I noticed this while reading subtitles.  However, Maïwenn and the actors perfect this important aspect of the filmmaking process.  It's critical to both the humor and the chaotic drama of the film.  Timing is everything in the more humorous moments of Polisse, but it's equally critical when trying to create tension in heated interrogations or cacophonous arguments.  I definitely appreciate the well-executed dialogue throughout the film.

Polisse is a powerful police drama with a jaw-dropping ending.  It also is surprisingly funny at times.  While they may use the Celestial Choir's song "Stand on the Word" to show how these cops are doing the good Lord's work, they're really doing His dirty work.  Polisse gets a sober rating.  Check out this French flick when you get a chance.