Bold and unsettling, "Eastern Boys" is a long, strange trip of a film that touches on myriad social, economic and sexual themes. Writer-director-editor Robin Campillo has crafted an unruly yet pointed drama that should intrigue patient viewers.
The movie, set in and around Paris, follows a pair of intersecting story lines. The first involves a sketchy gang of immigrants from former Eastern Bloc countries who live in the shadows while committing brash thefts. Led by the cocky, volatile Boss (Danil Vorobyev), the mostly young male crew serves as a kind of tough-love family from which escape seems tricky.
In the film's second strand, gay, middle-aged businessman Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) unwittingly crosses the group's path when he picks up waifish hustler — and gang member — Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) at the Gare du Nord train station. Marek arranges a date for the next night at Daniel's apartment, but it's a setup: The assignation turns into one of the most unusual home invasion robberies you're likely to see. Suffice to say, there's dancing.
However, this startling criminal act unexpectedly gives way to an unusually tender relationship between the lonely Daniel and an essentially decent-hearted Marek. It's this dynamic — at first sexual, later filial — that provides the film with a quiet emotional heft as well as a provocative through line.
Still, there's a subtle sense of dread that infuses Daniel and Marek's twisty time together that effectively leads to the movie's final act.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes. In French, Russian, Ukrainian and English with subtitles.
Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.