An Australian underworld coming-of-age tale much like 2010’s “Animal Kingdom,” “Partisan” stars Vincent Cassel as the sociopathic Gregori, tyrannical head of a polygamist sect and crime family.
Gregori sizes up single mothers with newborns in a maternity ward and lures them to follow him to a crumbling fixer-upper. As the children grow older, they tend the garden, take up target practice, run assassination drills and earn gold-star stickers for hit jobs well done — no joke.
Though Gregori seems the nurturing father figure, everyone tiptoes under his watchful eye — except for Leo (Alex Balaganskiy), the only child to arrive far past infancy. Leo constantly contradicts and undermines Gregori in front of the other kids, who have been too sheltered to disagree with him. The beheading of a chicken triggers Leo to wig out, and the episode begins to cast doubt in the mind of 11-year-old Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) as to whether father really knows best.
Chabriel’s lack of expression might be intended to convey a lifetime of brainwashing, but Alexander’s perpetually blank face doesn’t help the film. It’s hard to tell if director and co-writer Ariel Kleiman is being serious or sarcastic with a story this preposterous. Gregori is a monster, but you can’t help but feel for him. He’s raised all these unloving and ungrateful brats.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood; also on VOD