You can bet that every scheming lowlife who populates the kitsch landscape of “The World Is Yours” knows and recognizes that title’s allusion to Brian De Palma’s “Scarface.” And you can be be just as sure that not one of them has ever been able to sit still and concentrate long enough to make it through that — or any — three-hour film.
Music video director Romain Gavras’ breezy pop comedy, however, might be more their speed — but then, the film is designed to be everyone’s speed.
With his latest feature, the Kanye West, Jay-Z and M.I.A. collaborator has set out to conquer the world, or at least the French box office. With “The World Is Yours,” he delivered a crowd-pleasing caper that drew hurls of laughter and sustained applause at its world premiere as part of the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight sidebar on Saturday.
As if the John Landis cameo didn’t give it away, the film tries to be a “Blues Brothers”-like jaunt for a generation raised on Adderall and French hip hop, but its sharp edge and endearing cast will have little difficulty winning over audiences unfamiliar with acts like MC Solaar, as well.
Doughy mama’s boy François (Karim Leklou) has one dream in life: to buy the North African distribution rights to the Mr. Freeze brand of ice pops and work his way out of the projects, one summery treat at a time. Things are going his way until his con-artist mom Danny (Isabelle Adjani) gambles away the entire nest egg, forcing the good-hearted if otherwise inept crook to accept an ill-conceived drug-buying mission in Spain.
Already saddled with a harebrained scheme, Francois certainly doesn’t help matters by assembling a motley band of knuckleheads, all of them more inept and significantly less trustworthy than he.
While Lamya (Oulaya Amamra, star of the 2016 Caméra d’Or winner “Divines”) takes the money and runs every chance she gets, Henry (Vincent Cassel, hilariously playing against type as a potbellied goon) is really only good for conspiracy theories and little else. Throw in a pair of dimwitted thugs and a louche Belgian snowbird and you have all the makings for disaster — which is exactly what happens when Francois’ drug supplier stiffs them and Danny sweeps in to kidnap the man’s daughter.
Gavras keeps these many plates spinning with admirable dexterity, relying on his polished commercial background to keep things moving at an appealingly propulsive clip. Many sequences play like full-on music videos, like a tense hotel room break-in set to the song “Atlas” by the group Battles, or a kitschtastic karaoke rendition of Toto’s “Africa” at a tense, pivotal moment.
The director and his crew have an absolute blast detailing the garish neon wonderland of the seaside resort town where most of the action takes place.
That the cast is predominantly Arab-French and of a not-particularly-affluent social class is neither the main focus of the film nor wholly elided. Instead, Gavras and co-screenwriters Karim Boukercha and Noé Debré treat their characters’ backgrounds as a simply fact of life, letting their anxieties and experiences affect the madcap action onscreen, but not guide it.
In that sense, the broad comedy treats class and culture with an impressive sophistication. Think of it as “Pain & Gain” meets “La Haine,” played for laughs and box office.