Review: Lupin updates classic French gentleman thief for the 21st century

Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, looking every bit the contemporary version of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief.
Enlarge / Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, seeking each and every bit the modern edition of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief.

Netflix has kicked off 2021 with a bang, thanks to its new series, Lupin, starring French actor and comedian Omar Sy. This delightful modern reimagining of a classic character in French detective fiction, Arsène Lupin—a gentleman thief and master of disguise who was basically the French equivalent of Sherlock Holmes—is a huge hit. According to Deadline Hollywood, Lupin is on track to leading 70 million households in its initial 28 days of release, beating out two other current Netflix smash hits, Bridgerton (63 million households) and The Queen’s Gambit (62 million households).

(Some spoilers beneath, but no significant reveals.)

As I’ve written previously, Arsène Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who primarily based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Leblanc was also acquainted with the gentleman thief featured in the perform of Octave Mirbeau as nicely as E.W. Hornung’s famed gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, and he also knew about Rocambole, a character whose adventures have been recounted in a series of stories published in between 1857 and 1870 by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail.

Relentlessly pursued by a detective named Ganimard, Lupin is captured stealing a woman’s jewels on board a ship. Although he is imprisoned, he in the end escapes prior to standing trial and goes on to pull off numerous other colorful heists. In a June 1906 story, “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late,” Lupin meets the aging detective, even though for legal reasons—Arthur Conan Doyle objected—the identify was modified to “Herlock Sholmes” when the story was integrated in the first book of collected stories. The Sholmes character appeared in a couple of a lot more stories later on on. All informed, Leblanc wrote 17 novels and 39 novellas featuring Lupin.

The Netflix series is the creation of Louis Leterrier, who directed the 2013 heist thriller Now You See Me, in which a band of magicians pulls off ingenious robberies. So it really is simple to see why he may be drawn to this undertaking. Per the official premise: “As a teenager, Assane Diop’s lifestyle was turned upside down when his father died right after getting accused of a crime he did not commit. 25 many years later on, Assane will use Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar as his inspiration to avenge his father.”

We meet the Senegal-born Assane (Sy) although he is functioning as a janitor at the Louvre, surrounded by artwork well worth hundreds of thousands. Currently on exhibit is a jeweled necklace that when belonged to Marie Antoinette, in advance of a public auction to promote the piece to the highest bidder.  It was this not too long ago recovered necklace that his father, Babakar (Fargass Assandé ) was falsely accused of stealing by wealthy financier Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre). Assane is out for revenge for his father’s eventual suicide. After duping nearby gang members into pulling a decoy heist, Diop disguises himself as a wealthy prospective purchaser and crashes the auction—and in the end walks away with the necklace.

That’s just the starting of the story, as we find out a lot more about Assane’s history—including his partnership with childhood sweetheart, Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), the mom of his son—and why he has modeled his schemes on the exploits of Arsène Lupin. Elements drawn from different Lupin stories are cleverly woven during the series, most clearly “The Queen’s Necklace”—the title of the pilot episode, which incorporates numerous plot factors of the authentic story and also gives the inspiration for the identify of Assane and Claire’s son: Raoul (Etan Simon). Captain Romain Laugier (Vincent Londez) and an additional detective, Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab) are element of the group investigating the Louvre heist, and the two share traits of Ganimard.

Guedira is also a Lupin uber-fan he is the only a single in the division to recognize the similarities in between Diop’s perform and the fictional gentleman burglar (“the technique, the panache, the fashion, the talent!”). His co-employee, Lt. Sofia Belkacem (Shirine Boutella), is unimpressed with this insight: “What’s subsequent? D’Artagnan and the Three Little Pigs?” Other Lupin stories plainly referenced—and usually explicitly mentioned—in the series contain “813,” “Seven of Hearts,” “Arsène Lupin in Prison,” “The Escape of Arsène Lupin,” “The Mysterious Traveler,” and “The Hollow Needle,” the latter two of which function heavily in the last episode of the season.

The series is briskly paced, with out sacrificing character improvement, capturing the essence of every character in deft strokes. The cast delivers robust performances across the board, most notably Anne Benoit as disgraced journalist Fabienne Beriot, who went right after Pellegrini for his corruption and failed. Now residing alone in poverty with her tiny canine (aptly named J’Accuse, who barks anytime he hears the identify “Pellegrini”), she ends up joining forces with Assane in hopes of ultimately bringing down the financier. Benoit only seems in a single episode, but her arc is amid the most effective.

But it really is Sy’s Assane who anchors the series as the quintessential gentleman thief for the 21st century. Assane understands how to exploit racial stereotypes for the objective at hand: his skin shade renders him invisible as a janitor at the Louvre, although producing him stand out when he poses as a younger multimillionaire at the auction. (“You underestimated me,” Assane says to an antagonist at a single level. “You noticed me, but you did not actually search.”)  He’s charming, suave, nicely-go through, and really, really intelligent, however in no way effete, because Sy also imbues the character with athleticism and a assured physicality. He’s equally at residence ordering fine wine in a fancy restaurant or going toe-to-toe with a would-be assassin.

Honestly, the only flaw with this initial season is that it is far also short—a mere 5 episodes—and ends with a single of individuals maddening cliffhangers that Netflix is turning out to be notorious for. Given Lupin‘s smashing achievement, I’m fairly assured we’ll be seeing a lot more of Sy’s enchanting gentleman thief in the long term.

Lupin is at present streaming on Netflix, and with just 5 episodes, it really is an simple binge. In French with English subtitles.

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