The folks releasing “Resistance 1942” should have kept this WWII thriller’s original title “Burning at Both Ends,” for starters. That’s not only more poetic, but retitling without re-editing the picture you’ve decided to distribute can get you into trouble, too.
Although “Resistance,” which stars Cary Elwes, Greer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey), Judd Hirsch, Sebastian Roché and Jason Patric, has a sequence set in 1942 France, intertitles foolishly, needlessly and quickly advance this fictional claptrap into 1943 and set the entire third act in 1944.
It’s about an underground radio personality who broadcasts from an attic hideaway, a lone voice imploring whoever might be listening to keep “the flame of hope alight…Remember to trim your wicks, my friends. For the darkness soon will pass.”
Elwes is Jacques, that voice in Nazi/fascist occupied Lyon, France. He’s in hiding in an attic with his daughter (Grammer), an elderly Jewish couple (Hirsch and the late Mira Furlan) and another young fellow (T.W. Leshner), sending the young folks out to scavenge for food and retrieve vacuum tubes to keep Jacques’ transmitter/receiver gear in order.
Roché plays the Gestapo officer obsessed with silencing this “Jacques.”
“Interview every man called ‘Jacques’ in this city!” he commands, giving away why the Germans lost the war in a sentence.
The girl is so pretty she gets attention whenever she leaves the attic, and that leads to unwanted uniformed attention. A chase sends her into a random office to hide. And that’s how the banker Andre (Patric) gets mixed up in their plight.
Years pass with them under his protection. But pushy Germans demand a swank Dinner with Nazis gathering in his villa outside the city, putting everybody in their greatest peril ever.
I guess Hirsch’s grandson or somebody sharing his surname came up with the “story” of this screenplay, leaving it to the hapless writers/directors to make it work.
It’s not enough to get the uniforms right, the black leather Nazi overcoats and black leather Nazi gloves, the “Heil Hitlers” and Lugers anti-Semitism and the uneasy collaboration with the Vichy French police. You’ve got to keep the story moving and the suspense building.
After a brief and moving newsreel summary-of-the-war opening, “Resistance” skips forward in time without much narrative reason, and no narrative rhyme. The hidden quintet keeps the Jewish Sabbath and Jacques keeps hope alive, but the story wanders into the weeds when everybody ends up at that swank villa.
Scenes are clunky and disjointed. The dialogue is bad. Elwes and Patric do their best, but they have trouble hiding their dismay at some of the staging and most of the writing. The performances are adequate in the most tepid sense. Playing caricatures instead of characters is challenging.
This is exactly the sort of WWII movie you can do on the (relative) cheap. But before jumping in, you need to know a little more about the radio component of the story and radio components of the day. The Nazis record Jacques’ broadcasts on a 1970s vintage reel-to-reel deck, and the suggestion is given that an awful lot of Frenchmen — and women — had radio transmitter/receivers just like Jacques.
So I guess all those British SOE drops of such gear were for naught? Those were rare, the French police and Germans seized radio gear of all types, and arrested people just for listening to the wrong broadcasts. There’s no instance I could find of any “underground” station like this.
SOMEbody, perhaps the relative of one of the stars who came up with this story, misunderstands the fundamental difference between “underground radio stations” of WWII and “Pump up the Volume.”
Not that the rest of this disorganized dalliance in “Resistance” makes any more sense.
Rating: Unrated, violence
Cast: Cary Elwes, Greer Grammer, Sebastian Roché, Mira Furlan, Judd Hirsch and Jason Patric
Credits: Scripted and directed by Matthew Hill and Landon Johnson. A Quiver release.
Running time: 1:50