“In His Shadow” is a simplistic gangland parable about two half-brothers — one blind, the other a “monster” — who grew up and live in the Murets high rise projects on the outskirts of Paris.
Short and relatively brisk, it’s built on the unhappy upbringing that enveloped two sons thanks to their bullying and selfish Dad’s determination to bring home a second wife from the Old Country, whichever French African/Islamic colony (not specified) they trace their roots to.
The Ivory Coast singer Kaaris gives a ferocious performance as Ibrahim, the kid whose mother (Tatiana Rojo) was wronged by his father (Issaka Sawadogo) and grew up angry and criminal, at least partly due to that.
Adama (Alasasane Diong) grew up the son of the younger wife (Mareme N’Diaye), trapped in a stable but unhappy home with his sister Aïssata (Assa Sylla) and two feuding mothers.
Ibrahim turned to crime. Adama, caught up in the older half-sibling’s drama, was blinded in an accident related to the unhappy upbringing.
“In His Shadow” drops in on these lives just as things come to a head between these two, now adults. Ibrahim’s got control to the Murets projects, and parks his blind brother in his own apartment, which he turns into his “stash.”
And what happens to gangsters’ stashes? Rivals take it.
Adama becomes another member of the family at odds with and trapped with this “monster” in their lives. Aïssata cannot have a boyfriend (Carl Malapa), the mothers neighbors and businessmen can get no peace. The police are outnumbered.
And then their father dies, something also linked to Ibrahim’s activities. Adama must take his father’s lifelong advice to heart if he’s going to free them from this situation.
“Embrace your weakness,” Dad counseled (in French, or dubbed into English). “Don’t fight it. Look to make it your strength.”
Everything but that “look” instruction seems practical for the blind son with heightened hearing and other senses compensating for his “weakness.”
“Simplistic” comes in via the movie’s contrivances and plot conveniences, with the weapons of revenge dropped into our hero’s lap, along with a remedy for his “weakness.”
The action beats are pro forma, as are the way stations of this plot.
But Kaaris makes for a hulking fearsome heavy, a brute who will beat his own kin down or even to death if he sees the need. He alone is not worth checking this film.
There are many superior recent French thrillers available, some of them on Netflix, and most of them set in this or that housing project, just like the one glanced-over here. Those are worth watching. “In His Shadow” isn’t worth your time.
Rating: TV-MA, animal harm, graphic violence, profanity
Cast: Alassane Diong, Kaaris, Assa Sylla, Carl Malapa, Tatiana Rojo, Mareme N’Diaye and Issaka Sawadogo
Credits: Scripted and directed by Marc Fouchard. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:29