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The Lost Son Review

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Grizzled ex-cop Lombard (Auteuil), is hired by a former colleague to locate the missing son of the wealthy family of his new wife (Kinski). After closer inspection of the absent offspring's flat unearths video footage of a child being sexually abused, Lombard gains access to the squalid international syndicate in an effort to track down the mysterious ringleader "The Austrian".

★★★★★

Think of arthouse icon Auteuil and you immediately imagine lush French pastorals or intense emotional dramas. The sight of him crunching bones and blowing bloody great holes in bad guys, then, is as intriguing a prospect as watching Jean-Claude Van Damme do Chekov.

Auteuil, however, is more than a match for anything his role - that of a London-based Gallic gumshoe propelled into the flesh-crawling realm of a child sex ring - can throw at him. As grizzled ex-cop Lombard, he is hired by a former colleague to locate the missing son of the wealthy family of his new wife (Kinski). After closer inspection of the absent offspring's flat unearths video footage of a child being sexually abused by a older man, Lombard gains access to the squalid international syndicate that peddles these so-called "Puppies", in an effort to track down the mysterious ringleader "The Austrian".

Handling a tricky subject with tact and sensitivity, Menges' understated approach to the material is doubly disturbing for the way it avoids a Mona Lisa-like netherworld of vice and makes evil a currency which is commonplace, anonymous and believably businesslike. The one-time cinematographer picks his contrasting locations well, and it is his sense of space as much as anything - the busy streets of London, the windswept English coastline and the vast empty planes of Mexico - that keeps this potent thriller ahead of the pack.

Despite Auteuil's rugged performance, you do half regret that he turns out to be a less ambivalent - and ultimately less complex - figure than we first imagined: early hints at his own slightly seedy and voyeuristic nature are not amplified, and the unspoken secret from his Parisian police days turns out to be nothing more than a standard genre component. Viewed as a whole the film is not without implausibilities, inconsistencies and incongruities but Menges should be applauded for its unflinching, uncompromising and hard-hitting vision of human depravity.

Viewed as a whole the film is not without implausibilities, inconsistencies and incongruities but Menges should be applauded for its unflinching, uncompromising and hard-hitting vision of human depravity.