‘Ganglands’ TV Series Review: Family Above Everything

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‘Ganglands,’ also known as ‘Braqueuers: La Serie,’ is a small-screen expansion of the criminal world French film director Julien Leclercq first explored in the 2015 film ‘Braqueuers.’ This French-language crime thriller series premiered on Netflix on September 24. It was created by Hamid Hlioua and Lecleqcq, with the latter helming the six-episode collection.

This show stars Sami Bouajila, Sophia Lesaffre, Tracy Gotoas, Samuel Jouy, Nabiha Akkari, Sofia Lesaffre, Salim Kechiouche, Noureddine Farihi, Geert Van Ramperberg, and Bakary Diombera.

‘Ganglands’ tells the story of criminals fighting against each other and the central theme of family coming first, where one is determined to do anything regardless of how deadly or dangerous it is to keep their loved ones safe. There is that thin line between who is the more human criminal however this tale makes it very easy for audiences to pick sides despite the contrasting parties’ criminal activities.

At the beginning of the feature, two lovebirds, Shainez, played by Sofia Lassaffre, and Liana, a role by Tracy Gotoas, who are small-time thugs masquerading as escorts, steal from a dangerous drug lord. Little do they know that their seemingly minute crime could emanate into a mountain of a problem among the drug kingpins in the highly competitive crack market.

The gangster they steal from is Saber, embodied by Salim Kechiouche, who, in pursuit of revenge and in a bid to recover his priced goods while taking advantage of the situation at hand for his own selfish gains, takes Shainez hostage. Now Shainez happens to be Mehdi’s niece, a ruthless, highly-skilled, calculating thief running his own gang who will do anything to save his family.

Audiences witness his professionalism at work as he pulls off a fantastic gold heist with his crew at the beginning of the movie. He joins forces with his niece’s lover Liana to save their beloved friend and relative from the ugly clutches of the bad guy. Acclaimed French star Sami Bouajila who also led the 2015 version takes the role of Mehdi.

What seemed as a straightforward get in and out kind of situation goes south after the kidnappers give Mehdi the condition that he must steal 300 kilograms of cocaine from a rival gang to save his niece. He asks Liana to back out as the mission is pretty lethal; however, Liana’s love for her beau gives her the courage to venture into the ugly world of guns, drug dealers and gang rivalry. This begs the question of how far she is willing to go for the sake of her love for Shainez and if Mehdi and Liana will come out of the dangerous venture in one piece.

The most intriguing aspect to watch in this series is the clash between Mehdi as a professional robber and the dirtier business of family members in peril with unscrupulous drug traffickers. There is also the other aspect of Saber trying his father’s patience in a bid to expand, forcing his cousin Sofia a role by Nabiha Akkari, to act as an intermediary.

Overall ‘Ganglands’ storyline is a no-brainer. The events of the narrative unfold in quite a predictable manner. There are no twists, turns, or surprising moments in this flick, so if the audience feels like a character is about to meet the grim ripper, then they are absolutely correct. That’s how straightforward it is.

However, the crisp screenplay, action, and performance from the lead cast grab and retain one’s attention, making the viewer yearn for more. Yes, there is a couple of melodrama instances, such as the stint with Saber, his father, and cousin Sophia, who don’t believe he has the guts and smarts to run their criminal enterprise. Saber’s character is underwritten, and this attempt to boost his impact by creating a parallel story falls flat on its face.

The truth is, these melodramas don’t even add any value to the narrative. Thankfully they don’t divert the plot from its central theme. Something pretty notable is that the series does a commendable job at embracing LGBTQ+ as the lead pair are lesbians who are deeply and sincerely in love.

The story set up of Mehdi and Liana is fantastic. One is a seasoned pro excellent in his craft, while the other one is a small-town thief focused on stealing scraps, or so does the audience assume. At first, they seem like an unlikely duo coming from extreme worlds of each other. However, as the series progresses, their chemistry grows, and it is wowing to just watch this pro and rookie work so seamlessly in sequence against all the gangs.

It is really amazing what pacts can be formed in the name of love. Yes, their characters are bad people, but audiences can’t help to vouch for them as their teamwork dismantles the cartel-like a stack of Jenga blocks a classic situation of the standard lesser evil scenario. 

Both Bouajila and Tracy executed their roles convincingly. Their performances are outstanding, and their action keeps the movie afloat, engaging, interesting, and entertaining. The drug dealers, on the other hand, aren’t as menacing as such baddies are. These thugs are known to be heatless maniacs focused only on their business and what money it brings to them. In this series, they can’t really make a tough guy flinch. Actually, the Mehdi-Liana duo is more lethal than the presumed nasties of the series.

‘Ganglands’ is packed with adrenaline-pumping sequences which continue throughout the series keeping the viewers completely gassed. However, the narrative is too action-packed and violent that it doesn’t put in the emotional aspect.

The visuals are fantastic. Most of the cinematography is done in color, while the simple settings often give viewers the impression of movies made with the European audience in mind. The mood is edgy. The violence is grim and raw, the dialogue is captivating, making it an exciting watch.

This French gangster series ticks all the boxes of a thrilling crime show, from drugs, rivalries, fights, guns, violence, and ruthless killings. It sort of ends on a cliff-hanger as Mehdi’s rescue is in progress, and it is unclear whether Sofia and Saber eventually team-up. With amazing lead performances, ‘Ganglands’ is definitely a straight-up slam-bang action fest.

SCORE: 7/10

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