Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Found footage projects have been a mainstay on the big and small screen ever since the success of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Since then we’ve been graced with all manner of film, ranging from the very good to the very bad.
While predominantly reserved to horror movies or documentaries, there’s undoubtedly an allure with creating a found footage show or movie. Outside the obvious answer (cheap production costs) it also allows filmmakers to tell a more intimate story than they otherwise would have with conventional shooting techniques.
Dealer then is an attempt to try something a bit different within this medium, using all the conventional found footage tricks and applying that to the drug and gang trade. On paper, this sounds like the perfect recipe for success, opening a window to a trade few people outside the business know about. The execution of this French serial however, is a little underwhelming.
The story here follows two prospective filmmakers, Thomas and Franck, who are tasked with heading deep into gang territory to document the life of notorious ringleader, Tony. While he leads his pack of ravenous wolves, Tony also has aspirations to become a big rapper.
Franck and Thomas soon find themselves unwittingly spiraling into a world of deceit, lies and danger, as a rival gang leader called Steve shows up and demands Tony hand over his supplier. If he doesn’t, all hell will break loose.
This sets up the crux of the story, which is stretched out across 10 episodes that clock in at a little over 10 minutes a piece. To be honest, the concept may well have served better as a feature film.
Cut up into bite-size chapters like this loses any momentum the show gains, hiccupping into small snippets of drama between drawn out segments of mundanity. It also doesn’t help that the show lacks much characterization for our characters, giving a more passive feel to this project than it otherwise should.
Thomas, for example, gets barely any screen-time in the show despite being one half of this filmmaking team. Franck fares a bit better but to be honest, this is very much the Tony show. He’s the one character to be given the lion’s share of the spotlight and he’s easily the stand out player in this ensemble too.
One of the more interesting ways Dealer tries to mix things up is in its presentation. Instead of keeping Franck and Thomas as the filmmakers, other characters are given the reign to shoot from their perspectives.
One time we follow Tony’s nephew Kylian as he galivants off with a hand-held camera on his own. Another episode sees Tony strap a camera to his chest and head off on an action-packed mission through an apartment building. These moments of originality are pretty good but are betrayed time and again by the limitations of this filming style.
As one may expect, be prepared for lots of shaky cam, muffled sound, distorted dialogue and static pictures that suddenly jump around, all taking you completely out of the moment. Sure it may make for a more realistic picture but this realism comes at the expense of enjoyment – and that’s never a great trade.
Although artistic and a nice diversion from the usual big budget productions, Dealer doesn’t do anything particularly unique or original that hasn’t been seen before.
It doesn’t offer a profound look at the drug trade nor does it showcase anything different outside of a few interesting camera techniques. What we’re left with then is a lacklustre project that fails to stand out next to so many others of its kind.
Verdict - 5/10