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OUTSIDE THE LAW

OUTSIDE THE LAW Rule of law scarcely discourages the endless reprisals in Rachid Bouchareb's Algerian War–era family-ties drama Outside the Law, which shows the FLN's militant campaign for Algerian independence, as fought on French soil, through the experiences of three brothers. Reuniting in a Nanterre shantytown, this tattered family brings with it the shared memories of being rejected from its ancestral land to make room for French settlers and the 1945 Sétif Massacre (controversially staged — and controversially received at Cannes). Saïd (Jamel Debbouze) is the black sheep, while lanky and remorseful big brother Messaoud (Roschdy Zem), a veteran of the French military embarrassment in Indochina, serves as triggerman for true believer Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila), channeling his everything to the cause. Outside the Law, sympathetic to that cause while not ignoring the human cost, belaboring a parallel between FLN activity and the French resistance, and alleging extralegal terror by the Paris police, stirred up a polemic kerfuffle with some in France and was greeted as a necessary historical corrective by others. Necessary, that is, if movies are only ideological counterbalances — an uncommitted American viewer may be most distressed to find that scarcely one scene in this two-and-a-half-hour lug has any contour or tempo. The production design is nice enough, but Bouchareb's four-country co-production isn't an epic — it's just long. (Nick Pinkerton) (Landmark, Playhouse, Town Center)