Quentin Dupieux, the French DJ turned filmmaker, has built a reputation for his absurdist comedies that play on various genres. There was the one about a serial-killing tire (Rubber), the one about a man who becomes obsessed with a jacket (Deerskin) and now a take on the police procedural with his new film Keep an Eye Out. Take note of that title as it pays off in a screwed joke in this off-beat comedy.
The film largely is set inside one room of a police station, aside from some flashbacks. The police station and the costumes have a 1970s feel to them. The police station is particularly striking visually. Keep an Eye Out unfolds over the course of a grating interrogation that keeps getting interrupted. Chief Inspector Buron (Benoit Poelvoorde) is a driven investigator who seems to be incapable of life outside the station. He is interrogating Fugain (Grégoire Ludig) who happened upon a corpse outside his apartment and became the primary suspect as a result. Tired and hungry, Fugain is eager to get through the process. Buron has nothing else going on and wants to make it a long night for Fugain.
We learn early on that Fugain made seven trips in and out of his apartment that night. The film is structured around flashbacks to each of these trips as Fugain explains his innocence. At the core of the film, Dupieux seems to be making an argument to not call the police if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Fugain recounts the mundane details of his night. Buron seems annoyed at how boring the chain of events is. Things get worse for Fugain when an incompetent officer named Phillippe (a scene-stealing Marc Fraize) accidentally trips and kills himself in a hilarious manner that I refuse to spoil here. Buron is away when this happens, leaving Fugain to hide the body quickly and then resume the interrogation.
At the core of the film are two fantastic performances. Ludig is pitch-perfect as the straight man in the midst of an increasingly bad situation. Poelvoorde is very good as the increasingly annoyed inspector. You may recognize him from Man Bites Dog. These performances and Dupieux's absurd details help to keep things interesting even though the film does feel tedious at times. There is a sense the film isn't building to anything or going anywhere at times.
The film is short at 73 minutes and while dry and full of bickering, it doesn't overstay its welcome. There are a few great gags, including a smoking man with a hole in his chest that leaks smoke, in the film and the dialogue is witty. However, the ending feels lackluster and pointless to a degree. It confuses when it should enlighten. Still, Keep An Eye Out is still a worthwhile trip to take for fans of Dupieux's peculiar brand of absurdist humor. It just may not be the one to start with if you are new to his films. Deerskin from last year is more accessible.