The title of Bertrand Tavernier’s well-turned 146-minute French thriller refers to the article from the French Code of Public Health that forbids all offenses linked to the possession, traffic, and consumption of narcotics. Cowritten by former narcotics officer Michel Alexandre, this 1992 film takes a realistic approach, following the everyday routines and bureaucratic frustrations of a Parisian narc (well played by Didier Bezace). The character never quite says It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it, but this is the general idea, and with an able if not very well known cast Tavernier has made an absorbing and authentic-looking movie. More to the point, he implicates the audience in the sliminess of certain police operations in a way that has challenging political ramificationswhich is probably why this movie was assailed by both the left and the right in France. (JR)

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