A Pain in the Ass (‘L’Emmerdeur’)

COMEDY; 1hr 26min (French with subtitles)

STARRING: Richard Berry, Patrick Timsit, Pascal Elbé, Virginie Ledoyen

Room service: from left, Timsit and Berry

In an impossible force–immovable object equation, a trimly glacial hired killer (Berry as Ralf Milan), who could be Alan Rickman’s French half-brother, and a babbling suicidal bore (Timsit as François Pignon) are in inter-connecting hotel rooms. Their hotel faces a courthouse — convenient for Milan, who plans to shoot the key witness in a high-profile case. He hasn’t reckoned on Pignon, however: the man could stop any speeding bullet. No wonder his pretty wife (Ledoyen) left him for a money-hungry, smooth-talking psychiatrist (Elbé)! It’s a miracle she married him at all.


Director Francis Veber (The Valet ) revisits his 36-year-old script, which started life as the stage play Le Contra and has been filmed twice in subsequent decades; Berry and Timsit have also played their roles onstage. Veber keeps the action full of beans and the actors straight-faced and on their toes through a maze of absurdities. Spaniel-eyed Timsit is every inch a self-centred pillock, but it’s Berry’s Milan, pushed to distraction for all the ice water in his veins, who scores a bullseye at every beat.