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high wire act
RanchoTuVu29 July 2005
A small time ex-con (Phillipe Leotard as Dede) and his prostitute girlfriend Nicole (Nathalie Baye) are relentlessly pressured by an aggressive and at time brutal police squad led by Mathias Palouzi (Richard Berry) to inform on the mob. Using any means necessary, playing one off against the other, humiliation, beatings, or threats, the couple is forced to become informants on underworld leader Roger Massina (Maurice Ronet). The love story is at the heart of the film, while the cops and crooks make up opposite ends, though they often employ similar means. Berry seems to flourish in the middle, beating up on Dede while playing a little softer with his girlfriend Nicole. A fast pace takes us whizzing through some great Paris locations, through a stagey looking though fairly impressive shootout on a crowded street, and several seedy dead end alleyways. Many of the underworld characterizations are terrific, and the classy soundtrack (especially the ending) is perfect for the mood.
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Top Movie
steve_b3314 November 2001
Watched this last night - a belting French Cops and Robbers drama set among the Paris version of the flying squad. It opens with their main informant being murdered and they need replacement to get Mr Big.

They lean on a Dede (Philippe Léotard) a small time crook and pimp and his whore/girlfriend(Nathalie Baye) to persuade them to snitch on Messina.

They use threats,beatings - in fact anything to get a result. The cops are played in a very unsympathetic light - the're really thugs who bend the law to suit their ends.

Interestingly both Dede and Nicole are are much more attractive characters - he's her pimp but he loves her as she loves him. You really care about them as they are exploited by the cops who don't care what happens to them as long as they get their villian. There are car chases and shoot-outs aplenty but its the central relationship that lifts this above your average cop movie.

All the leads are well played and you hope things will work out for Dede and Nicloe but you know life isn't like that.

Not an obvious ending either and directed with an intesity by Bob Swaim who films it almost as a documentry so real is the gritty feel of the Parisian undwerworld.

Highly reccomended.
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Excellent Thriller With Gallic Style
Kevin-14213 November 2001
I can't believe that this movie has no comments and hardly any votes. It's a tough 1982 thriller set in Paris' Algerian sector. A specialist Police Unit pressurise a pimp and his hooker into becoming informants to enable them to bring down a local gangster. Although directed by an American (spot the U.S. film posters at the Police Station), the film is full of French style. The clothes, the food, the shades... The pacing is fast, the plot is good and the characters are fascinating. Baye is incredibly sexy as the 'tart with a heart' and Leotard looks suitably seedy as the pimp in love with her. It's a strange relationship, letting your lover have sex with strangers in order to put money in the joint account! I also like the way that the cops, who arrest and harass hookers, are shown to be willing to use their services on lonely nights. Pace, excitement, black humour and romance. What more can one ask from a thriller? 8/10
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Dirty, Gritty, Seamy Paris
cestmoi18 April 2004
What a nifty top of the B-film heap is this gritty Paris film, complete with love stories going bad, habits going strong, and cars going fast. Leotard has one of the great faces in the world and Nathalie Baye (in this outing new to me on release date) is just spectacularly vulnerable and perhaps a bit duplicitous. I would definitely make this part of my French film library. The film's co-director is from Evanston, Illinois! Bob Swaim has written films and directed them, mostly in France, and obviously learned his B-films on Saturdays with the rest of us and his France by living in it for a long time.
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francodomenico11 June 2003
The psychological techniques of the Chief Inspector Palouzi(Richard Berry)and his sometimes cruel, but equally compassionate portrayal of a decent human being, "just doing his job" was quite well done--Hat's off to Bob Swain--Chicago's own! Berry-himself of French-Algerian decent, is very smooth; and his mature attitude--not arrogance--is what pulls him though. The Acting by Nathalie Baye and the late Philippe Leotard was also excellent. Some of the chases and Arrests were Hokey-but, the Overwhelming theme here is the true devotion of a Woman(Baye) to her Man(Leotard). We need more stories about devotion to People, rather than Devotion to careers or even countries-- No displaced loyalties here--Baye's acting was superb, and I am married to a very devoted woman, so I identify with her loyalty to "Dede"!

Does anyone Know what Richard Barry(Benguigui) is doing these days? He is a fine actor. Bon Chance to all! Try and see this one, if you haven't already seen it.
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NOT a movie for the kids but an excellent film nevertheless
MartinHafer28 August 2005
I had a tough time giving this an 8 or a 9--it was very close. I finally decided on a 9 because the last 15 minutes of the film are about the most tense and riveting I have ever seen--talk about a suspenseful and satisfying ending! So, what is this movie like? Well, it is a lot like a better written and more interesting episode of "Miami Vice"--complete with blaring early 80s music, living-among-the-scum cops and LOTS of realistic violence. This is definitely NOT a film for the kids, as it is way too sleazy and intense--with hard-core violence, language and sex scenes. While this USUALLY turns me off, it was done so well that I could not stop watching--plus the level of realism seemed very high as the cops, like the bad guys, were prone to screw-ups. And you have to watch it just to see the police chase scene--it's amazing.

FYI--Although I don't know if it was intended, this movie seems to be a reworking of the movie "Kiss of Death"--a great American film noir film.
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Violent and gripping
IndustriousAngel9 September 2013
Maybe I was a bit young (15 I think) when I first saw this, in a french cinema without subtitles so I didn't even understand that much - but it left a strong impression and when I rewatched it a few years later with a more critical eye, it was still a very strong movie. There are more violent thrillers out there, but in the case of "La Balance", it's unsettling because you care for those people. I guess it's got something to do with the cast, it's a bunch of character faces you won't forget, especially Philippe Léotard. So, in contrast to many other thrillers, the violence in "La Balance" is never fun to watch - those are scenes where you'd like to close your eyes (which is the best way to portrait violence, in my opinion, if you don't happen to make an action comedy). Highly recommended!
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More than just a French Dirty Harry
carcarri27 January 2011
Somewhat in the tradition of literary realism, this is a police story with much drama and a hint of tragedy. When the determined police officer Palouzi (Berry)decides to get the mob boss in his district by replacing a blown up informer, his choice is a hooker, Nicole (N. Baye) and her pimp, Dédé (P. Léotard). Both are rather humane, likable and loyal to each other. Perhaps a bit of a cliché in the character Nicole. Palouzi will put ruthless pressure on them to get their reluctant collaboration. Given this scenario, things will be necessarily difficult for them. Very good performances of Berry, Baye and Léotard, and some violence scenes well staged and played. Interesting denouement with somewhat ambiguous (to me) ending. The character of the efficient, driven and street-wise officer Palouzi has interest and psychological depth. Maybe he will be devious and tough to make Nicole and Dédé to play his game, but also maybe he will try to keep them out of harm's way, if possible. In sum, no clear-cut heroes and villains, good story and script, good actors, intense action, credible ambiance, with some interesting characters.
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at times silly, at times boring
christopher-underwood16 January 2007
Gritty, nasty, overlong, at times silly, at times boring and very very over rated. If you want plenty of action with love interest, then the US turns them out all the time and if you want sex and violence, then for this sort of movie, Italy is where you should head. This seems to be stuck in the middle, lots of horrible guys doing nasty things to each other and scenes of 'true love', I don't think so, trust the French! The setting on the mucky streets of Belleville, now much cleaned up, is fine but when you set up a virtually plot less movie, it just to have a bit of style, that little bit of something to keep you interested. This moves so fast at the start that it looks as if all is going to be well but somewhere around half way it dawns that the film is going to carry on like this all the time.
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Belleville Rendezvous
writers_reign18 March 2005
This is one of those realistic polars where you can't tell the cops from the hoods without a scorecard. The premise is simplicity itself; the star balance (informer) of the Belleville district is assassinated in the first minutes leaving the local cops with a vacancy to fill. Their thinking turns to Dede (Leotard) a small time pimp with only one client (Nathalie Baye) who is reluctant to say the least. The name Dede or its female version Dedee is something of a constant in French movies, in 1948, Simone Signoret played Dedee of Anvers (a hooker) for her then husband Yves Allegret, but that's just an aside. Baye and Leotard had been an item in real-life but had broken up by the time the film was shot largely due to Leotard's drink and drugs problem but the genuine affection between them informs every scene they play together. The main thrust of the plot involves Belleville's Mr 'Big' (Maurice Ronet) and his 'enforcer', Belge, a certified ding-dong (or, if you're French, dingue-dong). Shot by Illinois-born Bob Swaim, this is in the finest tradition of the 'polar' with outstanding ensemble acting - and we really should mention multi-talented Richard Berry as Leotard's nemesis - and a great set-piece involving a multi-car pile up and a shoot-out in the street. Definitely one of the all-time great post-war French polars.
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Kirpianuscus26 February 2018
...of a different Paris, different love story and images of cops. a precise and impressive film. for the portraits of characters. for the science to escape from cliches circle, for the inspired way to tell a dirty, insignificant, ordinary story, using each of its nuances in admirable manner. a woman. and her man. and the Police as the shark in the essence of relationship who could be normal. it is easy to define it as a film with a great cast , from Maurice Ronet and young Tcheky Karyo to Nathalie Baye. but the authentic star of film remains Phililipe Leotard, giving a dramatic performance. so, a revelation. at each new view. because it represents the realistic portrait of a world who seems, from so many (American) films, well known.
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Great performances, plot went the way of the buffalo
atxj15 January 2007
First off, this movie's plot is outdated, but the acting of Philippe Leotard and Nathalie Baye is superb and makes up for it. Monsieur Leotard has the hangdog charm that most women would find irresistible. If you've ever heard a woman say that French men are sexy and wondered why? This is an example of the wondering why? He is a scoundrel but irresistible. Apparently this guy knew how to party. There is something coiled and feline in the way Nathalie Baye moves. Her comic timing is perfect and delivery impeccable. If that's not enough her clothes are totally 80s but back in style now. The same goes for Monsieur Leotard. I want to get some Lacoste shirts to wear with my leisure suit now!
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Classic French bad-cop bad-cop thriller
charles-paxton-martin18 July 2017
One of the great French bad-cop bad-cop thrillers, which I remember vividly from years ago. I love that the supposed criminals were so well characterized, not like today's shoot-em-ups. Recommended, and I will buy it again, if it has subtitles. (I speak French, but it's sort of rusty, and the fascinating Parisian slang can be hard to follow.)
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Disappointing French cop flick without much style
Chris Knipp22 November 2005
A longtime resident in France, Swaim (with an M) was an American. I didn't like this film which turned me off right at the beginning with its flashy but uninteresting opening sequence of whores and street people with loud music. Swaim had researched "special brigade" Paris police for months, supposedly putting his life in danger, yet he manages to make the main cops in the film look as slimy as the bad guys in Diva -- a dumb move. Somebody said Swaim was a follower of Friedkin rather than Melville/Mann. Others say he really didn't follow anybody. This would be a virtue only if he had his own style, but I can't detect much of one. There is as much of late Melville as there is of American TV cop shows. I don't like the bright lighting, which makes the Belleville scenes look like stage sets, even though they're authentic.

That there is an illegal romance between a pimp (Philippe Léotard) and his stylish whore (Nathalie Baye) and they're both under pressure to be police informers as a result is a situation Melville could have made something good out of I'm sure, but Swaim just turns it all into brightly lit sleaze.

A police sting operation that goes wrong and turns into a traffic jam and massacre of civilians is one more thing that makes the cops -- who seem worse than the hoods -- look bad, but it provides the film's only excitement. I also liked a brief interrogation in a pinball gallery before that: there should have been more interesting, intense use of locations like that. Many times the locations seem wasted and the physical business overblown and inefficient. Just consider what Melville does with a big dirty empty bedroom in the opening of Le Samourai! In the final shootout, cops keep exposing themselves to fire in an empty building. They don't seem to have watched enough Miami Vice episodes. It's a bit hard to see how this got the César for best film in 1982 when Catherine Deneuve was president of the jury. I guess it was a bad year.

It's not that there haven't been any good French "polars noirs" since Jean-Pierre Melville or that there weren't any in the Eighties, because there have been and there were, but this just isn't one of them. It's competent but that ain't enough.

Seen on a restored print in a Netflix-issued DVD.
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The best french crime movie since and before a long time.
searchanddestroy-11 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When it was released in 1982, I considered it was the best french crime flick since the death of Jean Pierre Melville, with maybe the exception of some Alain Corneau's flicks - POLICE PYTHON 357 and LE CHOIX DES ARMES. Don't forget that Corneau was called the heir of Melville...Speaking of Corneau, I consider Series NOIRE as a film noir, instead of a crime feature.

Back to LA BALANCE, this film was the last crime movie, at least the best one, made before the rise of Olivier Marchall, twenty years later. Of course, just before LA BALANCE, or at the same time, we had the three Jean Claude Missiean's films: TIR GROUPE, RONDE DE NUIT and LA BASTON, all three efficient programmers, but not at the scale of the Bob Swaim's piece of work. Yes, folks, after LA BALANCE, we had nearly nothing Worth, in the crime film kind. Oh, I admit we received LE COUSIN, also made by Corneau, and the superb J'IRAI AU PARADIS CAR L'ENFER EST ICI. Both from 1997.

Yes, LA BALANCE remains a real masterpiece, even after all those years. And no one has mentioned that this was a french movie, made in France by an American director, as was Jules Dassin's RIFIFI CHEZ LES HOMMES, thirty years earlier.

And I will finish by announcing that the great Florent Emilio Siri, the director of NID DE GUEPES, HOSTAGE, L'ENNEMI INTIME and CLOCLO will direct the remake of this masterpiece. It will take place in Marseilles. I read his interview. I AM SO EXCITED,, folks !!!!!

And we all know that in France, since a couple of years, there was many affairs of rotten cops, lead executives of the force, accused of corrupttion, or too much "friendship" with the mob. And this movie will talk about all this. Boundaries between cops and gangsters. Boundaries as thick as cigarette paper, where every one swims in the very same water. The same swamp.

Let's wait for the remake. I already know it will be a real killing.
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