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22 Bullets: The Immortal 2010

22 Bullets | The Immortal | L'immortel

22 Bullets: The Immortal-L'immortel

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About the 22 Bullets 💬

  • The revenge of the professional...

57-year-old Charly Matteï (Jean Reno) has turned his back on his life as an outlaw. For the last three years, he's led a peaceful life devoting himself to his wife and two children.

Then, one winter morning, he's left for dead in the parking garage in Marseille's Old Port, with 22 bullets in his body.

Against all the odds, he doesn't die...

This film is a work of fiction inspired by real‐life events in the world of the Marseille mafia.

  • Shed blood never dries.

Love. Forgiveness. Revenge. Vengeance.


Q: What made you want to adapt Franz‐Olivier Giesbert's book?

Richard Berry: In the same way that comedy is an incredible vehicle for certain ideas, thrillers can also give you pause to reflect on certain issues. In the story of a guy, who was allegedly a mafia godfather in Marseille, who was left for dead in 1977 in a parking lot in Cassis, but who survived the shooting earning himself the nickname ''The Immortal'', I saw an incredibly strong subject and an amazing adventure. Going from gangster to immortal is a pretty astounding feat.

I situated the film beyond the anecdote. It gave me a chance to talk about identity, the central theme of most of my films. You can never shake off your culture, origins, and history... To other people, you'll always be the Breton, the Jew, the Arab, the Chinaman or whatever. And between the desire to integrate and our ability to accept people, there's often a huge gulf. In 22 BULLETS, we're dealing with a gangster who has retired from the life and who is redeeming himself by living a quiet life with his wife and children, while accepting that he'll never be as rich that way. Eventually, his past catches up with him in the shape of Zacchia, his childhood friend. They'd sworn to stick together in life and in death, but Zacchia is motivated by a theory that is no less true and totally rational: ''When you have blood on your hands, it never washes off. Evil is evil. It's within us. You have to accept it.'' Their completely contrasting approaches made me want to make a movie based on their story, but not in a didactic way, telling audiences who's right and who's wrong. In the underworld, like in the police department, there are good guys and morons. They're human beings first and foremost before they're cops or hoodlums. So Marina Foïs's character, the female cop, is still looking for closure after her husband's death because the investigation never found any proof against the gangsters who did it. They are untouchable. And, of course, her personal perspective is completely different than her professional one. It's that human reality, those paradoxes, that I wanted to see on the screen. Similarly, I wanted each hoodlum who dies to be a man with a story, a family. These are contradictions that shine true humanity in the film.

Q: How did you set about achieving that aim?

Richard Berry: I bought the rights to Franz‐Olivier Giesbert's book, but I only used part of the novel in the end. Some people will find the movie very true to the reality of the underworld. I conducted my own investigation, which I can't talk about in great detail because I met a lot of people in total secrecy. I spent weeks on end in Marseille and gradually, I met a woman who knew a man and so on... Discreet meetings in cafés, where I heard stories that fleshed out the story or certain characters.

Q: What happened when you met The Immortal, the notorious Jacky Imbert?

Richard Berry: Franz was the go‐between. Jacky was obviously the first person I wanted to meet. The movie isn't the story of his life. I take one event and build a fictional life around it. That fiction is based on the reality of life in the underworld, but it isn't the reality of Jacky's or anybody else's daily life. It's fiction based on fact.

Our first meeting took place one summer's evening nearly three years ago. I found myself in the company of a very funny, quite mysterious and very tight‐lipped character. He saw what he'd been through from a very human perspective - friendships, backstabbing. He said, ''That attempt on my life destroyed me when I was only 47 years old. Now, I'm an invalid. I've lost the use of my right hand and my body is racked with pain.'' But the worst thing for him, his biggest wound, was the betrayal. I soon understood that, as he did for Franz's book, Jacky wanted to stay well out of the story I wanted to tell.

Q: But you asked to see him again...

Richard Berry: Yes, that didn't stop me meeting with him during his trial for racketeering, a charge that went back 15 years. He'd already spent 18 months in custody. So 6 months after our first meeting, I turned up at the courthouse and was astonished by the number of photographers and TV crews. Actually, I was struck by the charisma of this guy, whose hair is completely white and who dresses all in black. As I followed the trial, I discovered an intelligent man who defended himself and explained things with a lot of humor. I also began to understand the situation he was in, prey to so many rumors. He's a victim of his reputation as a ''dangerous'' man.

After the trial, we had dinner together and met up often. He's as silent as the grave - never gives a name or even a nickname and says things that found their way into the movie, such as, ''Heavenly justice works faster than justice on earth'' or ''The hitmen were wearing hoods. That's murder. You settle your scores with your face unmasked'' or ''The cops took me in for jobs I didn't do. For the jobs I did, they never came near me.'' Today, he's a guy who just wants to live the rest of his life quietly.

Q: Did he trust you right away?

Richard Berry: Yes, because, without asking anything, he knows it's not the story of his life. But I hope the movie rings true overall. It's not an Italian or American mafia movie transposed to Marseille. I root the film in the reality of the French mafia, the Marseille mafia, which is a distinct part of local culture. There's a line in the movie telling the story of how, in the 18th century, Louis XIV turned the canons of two forts onto the city of Marseille. On set, the mayor of Marseille, Jean‐Claude Gaudin, kept saying that he didn't want another movie showing Marseille as a mafia hub. But the fact is, I spent over a year in Marseille and, in that time, there were an amazing number of gangland killings. Every time I recced a location, there was a bunch of flowers ''In memoriam...'' That doesn't stop the city developing, and it will be European Capital of Culture in 2012, but the reality is there and has been a long time. I wanted that to appear on the screen. That's why all the supporting actors I cast are local actors who speak with a genuine Marseille accent.

Q: But you don't emphasize the links between politicians and the mafia. Why?

Richard Berry: Until the late 80s, those links existed between local politics and the underworld. My film's set in the present day, so I only allude to them in the scene at the wedding of Zacchia's ''spiritual son''. The audience sees that all these guys were in contact with very senior politicians. I had other more explicit scenes, but they hark back to bygone times and that wasn't my angle, especially as relationships between politicians and gangsters are not what they were. As I explain in the movie, today, drugs are where it's all at, and drugs are available to small-time crooks as well as major‐league gangsters. You never see the kingpins because they have representatives who have representatives who have representatives... all the way down the economic ladder to the street‐corner dealers who sell a couple of kilos and are ready to kill for no good reason at all, whoever it is they're facing. The mafia's pyramid hierarchy no longer exists, so having links with politicians has become redundant.

Q: Why Jean Reno to play ''The Immortal''?

Richard Berry: Jean was there at the beginning of the project. We're good friends. After I, Cesar... he was one of the first actors to ask me to cast him in a movie. But I can't write for someone. The story that I have in mind has to be the right fit. But I had nothing in mind that fitted with Jean. I started working on an adaptation of Philippe Claudel's La petite fille de Monsieur Linh, which unfortunately didn't get off the ground. Then the story of ''The Immortal'' came along, and I immediately thought it was a role for Jean. He has the humanity of a guy who's looking for redemption but looks like he could once have been a major gangster. Jean has the depth of someone with a past, and strength that could potentially be very dangerous for someone. The quiet man. Also, as he confirms in the movie, he's a wonderful actor. In 22 Bullets, his performance is quite extraordinary.

Q: Why Kad Merad to play Zacchia, who sends his hitmen after ''The Immortal''?

Richard Berry: Zacchia is a multi‐faceted character. He is, in turn, or even simultaneously, charismatic, likable, temperamental and nuts. He can go off the wall at any moment. Once again, I immediately thought of Kad because he has one of the character's vital traits, genuine kindness, and because, although he's given acclaimed performances in movies like Don't Worry, I'm Fine, he's never played a character who scares people. I wanted to light the fuse and see what happened. I chose to take a likable actor and push him towards craziness, rather than an actor who looks like a nutcase and give him a veneer of humanity. It's fascinating to show those facets of one character. For a moment, you think you can be pals with the guy, and then he turns totally scary. Kad was the right person to capture that range of feelings.

Q: And, to complete the trio, Jean‐Pierre Darroussin?

Richard Berry: Jean‐Pierre and I have known each other ages, we've made three or four movies together and I get on really well with him. He's the ultimate nice guy, honest, loyal, trustworthy - a Robert Duvall without the hint of danger - precisely like the last member of the trio, more withdrawn and cowardly than Jean's very calm character and Kad's on‐edge character. We show those traits in the flashbacks to their younger days.

Q: Amidst all these men, you cast Marina Foïs to play the cop leading the investigation...

Richard Berry: Marina is an actress I've adored for a long time and I wanted to see her in a more realistic setting. 22 BULLETS proves that she's a great actress with incredible range. Her character isn't as crazy as in Darling, nor as offbeat as in Les Robins des Bois. She's incredible in an extremely grounded role, she likes to take direction and she responds immediately so I could push her really far in certain scenes. That's an enormous pleasure for a director.

Q: You and rapper Joey Starr also make brief appearances. Why?

Richard Berry: In the movie, there's a mystery surrounding the eighth man in the group that shot Jacky. The idea was that the audience shouldn't immediately guess his identity. I fought to have well‐known faces in minor roles to increase the possibilities. That explains my role and that of Joey Starr as Pistachio. Of course, the actors had to be credible in the roles they play, and I think Joey is a wonderful actor. He was astonishingly true to life in Le Bal des actrices. Also, we've known each other for a long time. I met him before he even became Joey Starr and I like him a lot. On top of that, the camera loves him.

  • JEAN RENO as Charly Matteï: ''The Immortal''

What other French actors could play a living legend of the Marseille mafia, a "godfather" who miraculously escapes death on his quest for redemption? With this role, the star of The Big Blue also achieved a certain fulfillment. Anything but a coincidence...

What appealed to you about the role of Charly Matteï?

His quest for redemption, as scripted by Richard Berry. It's always difficult to escape your environment and your past. The price to pay can be very high. It takes time, anyway, to understand where you're going. Charly Matteï chooses substance over style - his boat, wife and son over mountains of cocaine, the bling and the clichés. He goes back to the basics, and after the attempt on his life, he protects his family.

  • KAD MERAD as Tony Zacchia

Going up against ''The Immortal'' wearing the black suit of a Marseille mafia godfather is the star of massive hits The Chorus and Welcome to the Sticks. Scary, unpredictable, dangerous - it's his meanest role ever.

Kad Merad acting in a thriller will surprise some people. Are you a fan of the genre? Is that why you agreed to do it?

Above all, it was new and very tempting, or even exciting. Actors are very playful. We're all children. Even if, deep down, I wasn't sure I could do it. I said so to Richard Berry when he offered me the part. I don't rush out to see gangster movies, but films like Goodfellas, Scarface and Carlito's Way - with their hoodlums and thugs - are fascinating. They're extremely cruel guys, outlaws that you can't identify with, but I guess I maybe know some without realizing it! Who knows? But if you wind up at dinner with a guy like that, he probably has a little something different in his eye.

Did that twinkle in the eye inspire your performance or did you draw on legendary movie gangsters?

When you play a gangster like Zacchia, dressed in black, living in a huge house, you obviously think of Scarface. So obviously, I thought of Pacino! But it's totally unconscious because there aren't so many different ways to approach the role of a godfather who inspires fear and pity. Fortunately, I could lean on the fact that he stammers, gets migraines and is a hypochondriac. Otherwise, he's a regular gangster. I remember something Richard said: ''He's a charming guy, loves his family, is attractive to women... but you don't wanna cross him. There's something burning him up deep down.'' He'll kill in cold blood, so he's unpredictable and dangerous, too.

  • MARINA FOÏS as Detective Marie Goldman

For her first appearance in a genre movie, Marina Foïs plays a very modern woman: an enigmatic, obstinate and rebellious detective. Caught up by demons of the past, she juggles constantly with her ideals, disappointments, and responsibilities as a single mother.

What appealed to you about this movie? Playing a cop in a film noir?

If you're going to be in a genre movie, why not play the detective! Actually, I played a cop in Ilan Duran Cohen's movie, Le Plaisir de chanter, but that was more about espionage in the corridors of power. The challenge, here, was to find my own way of saying, ''You're under arrest!'' Everybody's heard it a thousand times - so I had to avoid the TV movie feeling, whose codes everyone knows so well. There must have been takes, in fact, where I was pitch perfect for a TV cop movie!

How did you construct the ''enigma'' of your character?

What interested both Richard and me in this character is her struggle to reconcile the difficulties that real women in real life face - and aren't necessarily very cinematic - and the world she's thrown into, which people can't really identify with. I'm friends with a cop who captured a serial killer, Francis Heaulme. He told me that during investigations, or after interrogations with major criminals, when you get a close‐up glimpse of incomprehensible violence, your reflex is to cling to an everyday reality - just going into a café to order a coffee surrounded by normal people doing normal things. Even so, it's easy to understand the effect of the adrenalin rush... even for a junior detective like Marie. What's more, she has very personal motives - not revenge necessarily, but a need to see justice be done to help get over her husband's murder.

Your character certainly avoids the cliché of the infallible detective...

Yes, people like her are interesting because they constantly have to compromise their ideals. I guess people join the police department with certain personal ethics. Then, faced with reality and the judicial system, some obviously have to scale back their teenage dreams. And, of course, my character has just lost her husband, who was an undercover cop probably murdered by the mafia. She's forced to wonder just how far she should go, what risks she can take, now that she's raising their child on her own. She's definitely torn between the need for detachment and obligation for commitment, while fighting the temptation to over‐commit. That dilemma makes the character very interesting, even if it's not central to the movie.

  • JEAN‐PIERRE DARROUSSIN as Martin Beaudinard: ''the consigliere''

A return to Marseille for one of Robert Guédiguian's favorite actors in the pivotal role of the attorney friend of the two godfathers, Matteï and Zacchia. Professionally and personally, between legality and loyalty, how long can he remain above their rivalry?

Darroussin in a thriller set in Marseille. Some people might say, Of course!

I don't want it to seem obvious. I don't want to be pinned down to a particular genre or style. What appealed to me about 22 BULLETS was the chance to work with Richard Berry. I know him well, he's a friend. I made an appearance in his first movie, but here he offered me a great character, slightly offbeat, with some interesting stuff to act. And I haven't done many action movies.

Is the strength of your character his contradictions?

Yes. In general, in genre movies, the characters are all or nothing, but this guy is caught up in so many contradictions, he escapes most of the clichés. He's at the core of the crisis, the war. He's shaken up so much on all sides that his weaknesses are gradually revealed. With him, we're talking about the reluctance to act, but he's not really an anti‐hero. Each level of the plot has its protagonists and elements that conform to the character's potential. My character is easy for the audience to relate to. He became the gangsters' lawyer, but you could easily imagine him as an apprentice mobster in the housing projects, except that he got a place at law school... It happens!

Did you draw your inspiration for him from real or fictional characters?

Richard introduced me to a lawyer, who was a woman, so I could hardly project my character onto her! Of course, he brings to mind Robert Duvall's character in The Godfather. Except that they're totally different. Duvall plays a kind of Secretary of the Interior, directly involved in mafia business, whereas the gangsters in 22 BULLETS are all pretty individualistic. They're not fighting over a neighborhood or business. It's a moral issue. I know cinema's so young that it delights in quoting itself, but I don't have references in mind when I act. I try to avoid them.

Talking of references, could 22 BULLETS have been shot anywhere other than Marseille?

No, I don't think so. Firstly, because it draws on the life of a famous figure in Marseille, Jacky Imbert. Of course, we could have transposed it to Hamburg... But no. The Marseille underworld features strongly in the collective imagination, in France and beyond. Playing with archetypes means taking on the classics of the genre. Historically, being close to Italy, Marseille has had links to the mafia in Naples and even Corsica. On top of that, Marseille is a port, so there's a lot of trafficking. And then there's history. Before WW2, all around the port, it was the mobsters who laid down the law. After the war, the Resistance heroes and their friends took power. Marseille is a city where adventures are always possible, so the adventurers go there, too. It's harder to imagine adventurers in dull, smalltown France, isn't it?

As a result, even if it's not totally invented, the movie isn't completely realistic either.

It all depends on what you have to say. Richard wants to make striking movies. He likes camera movements and lighting. He started out in the theatre, so he reaches out to audiences on a different level, more fairytale, more heroic and epic, if you like. And I agree that there's a tragedy in this tale of battle and betrayal.

  • Marseille and Film Noir: a dip into murky waters

Since the invention of the camera, Marseille - the ''French Chicago'' - has been a breeding ground for crime movies. With its roll call of high‐profile crimes and criminals, glamour and violence, is Marseille the gangland of popular myth or is there a more prosaic reality?

by Ariane Allard

22 Bullets Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Richard Berry

Writing Credits

Richard Berry, Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte (Scenario & Adaptation)

Richard Berry, Alexandre de La Patellière, Matthieu Delaporte and Eric Assous (Dialogue)

Franz-Oliver Giesbert (Novel)


Jean Reno

Kad Merad

Marina Foïs

Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Luc Palun

Richard Berry

Joey Starr

Dominique Thomas

Martial Bezot

Daniel Lundh

Joséphine Berry

Max Baissette de Malglaive

Louis-Adrien Debey

Fani Kolarova

Jessica Forde

Catherine Samie

Venantino Venantini

Moussa Maaskri

Lucie Phan

Benaïssa Ahaouari

Zohra Benali

Samir Djama

Mélèze Bouzid

Claude Gensac

Carlo Brandt

Christian Mazucchini

Guillaume Gouix

Gabriella Wright

Sonia Zonenberg

Denis Braccini

Jean-Pierre Sanchez

Jean-Jérôme Esposito

Cédric Appietto

Philippe Magnan

Jean-Luc Borras

Arthur Mazet

Anthony Sonigo

Grégory Gatignol

Music by

Klaus Badelt

Cinematography by

Thomas Hardmeier

Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Country: France

22 Bullets Official Trailer

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