Until yesterday, I had never heard of Arsene Lupin(pronounced Lu-Pon), the gentleman thief and main character of Maurice Leblanc’s 1905 classic. Lupin is an elite member of the gang of delightful rogues cum anti-heroes known as gentlemen thieves. He is elegant, efficient and a master of role play. Lupin’s modus operandi is disguise and persuasion as opposed to violence, employed by the typical thief. In Netflix’s modern twist of the classic tale, Black French actor Omar Sy vicariously brings to life Leblanc’s renown rapscallion.
Sy plays the role of a professional thief Assane Diop. Diop is the only son of an immigrant from Senegal who had come to France to seek a better life for his child. Diop’s father is framed for theft by his rich employer Hubert Pellegrini the show’s antagonist, and hangs himself in jail, leaving teenage Diop to fend for himself. 25 years later, Diop inspired by a book about a gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, given to him by his father on his 16th birthday, sets out to get revenge on the Pellegrini family. He employs his exceptional conman skills of thievery, subterfuge, and disguise to expose Pellegrini’s crimes.
The show debuted on Netflix 8th of January and less than a week later, became the second most popular title in Nigeria, the United States and many other countries, beaten only by Shonda’s Rhimes Bridgeton(another exceptional series). Netflix reports that this is the first time a French series debuted in the Top 10, and still remains on top in many countries including Nigeria. As at the time of writing this review, Lupin holds tightly at the 3rd spot in the country.
I wasn’t moved to watch when it first arrived on Netflix. But its quick ascension to the top 10 and the heist reminiscent image of Sy holding a necklace used as the cover piqued my interest. So when I decided to check out information on the show and found that it was just 5 episodes all under 55 minutes, I gave in.
Lupin unfortunately didn’t really captivate me. But don’t get me wrong, it was interesting to watch, with its share of action, drama and a window into the world of Leblanc’s legendary character whom as a bibliophile I found very fascinating ( got a soft copy of the book after the 1st episode). But with it’s 93% rating on movie/show critic site rotten tomatoes, and the reviews from critics, I had expected to be blown away.
Read Also: Review: Love Jacked (Romantic Comedy)
However, I did like many things about the show. I liked the direction it took- assimilating the French classic into Assane Diop’s story. I like that it wasn’t just a modern take on the book. “George Kay “Criminal”, the show’s British creator and showrunner said about the Le Blanc’s netflix interpretation:
“We wanted to see Omar [Sy] in all his humanity and his experience with the myth, rather than call him Arsène Lupin and do something that had already been done.”
This path he, and the show’s creators chose to take is brilliant.
I also liked the theme of invisibility explored on the show. No, it’s not what you think, nothing supernatural. But in carrying out his schemes, Diop disguised mostly by pretending to be the underdog, like a janitor, nerd etc. The kinds of people many hardly pay any attention to. I like that his disguise in the show was mainly about being the underdog than actually using make up to change who he was. The show in a lot of ways challenged many stereotypes.
On the acting, Omar Sy was very convincing in his interpretation of Assane Diop. Sy has featured in some big block busters in the past like Xmen, but this is the 6ft 2” actor’s biggest acting gig yet. He was smooth, believable and a delight to watch. Idris Elba comes to mind in terms of another actor who would have also being remarkable in the role. But considering that the show was shot in French, this role was tailored for Sy.
The use of flashbacks in this intricately told tale is also remarkable. Throughout the five episodes, pieces of information come together as we see different aspects of Diop’s life, giving insight on how he became driven by revenge and inspired by Leblanc’s classic. But the biggest heroes for me are the screenwriters who successfully wove together the book, and Diop’s story, embedding Arsene Lupin’s non-violent mastery of theft. Watching Lupin, you wont ever know what’s coming. The suspense was top notch, and that, despite not being sucked in kept me watching till the end.
A second instalment has been filmed and is set to follow later this year, and I’m definitely looking forward to it because it ended on a cliff-hanger. I’d rate it a 7/10. You should see it.