Is there anything the French don’t do well? If you’ve seen Benjamin Rocher’s sequel to the 2015 action-drama The Squad, I bet you’d agree it’s time we gave French action flicks, and rap music too, for that matter, a fair shot at wooing us. Steadily bolstered by the slapstick elements that add an extra dosage of warmth to the uniquely emotional narrative, The Squad: Home Run revives the adorably quirky cop Niels Cartier’s amusing shenanigans one more time. Here’s how Cartier’s bizarre hunt for his wife’s killers goes down in The Squad: Home Run.
What Happens in the Film?
Don’t get me wrong; losing a loved one to a freak explosion is traumatizing. But it’s not an easy job to keep a straight face when the unabashedly trope-y narrative of The Squad: Home Run takes a wilted page out of the most done-to-death book of cop thrillers to introduce itself to us. Mixing work and pleasure has never had a worse consequence than the one that turned police captain Niels Cartier’s life upside down. Niels’ relentless pursuit of a gang misusing a certain blend of extremely corrosive chemicals he calls yin-yang has landed him in the path of Seyo Vranic, the chemist behind the deadly concoction. Unfortunately for Niels and his little daughter Charlotte, the situation goes haywire with Dutso Kovo’s bone-chilling arrival, and Niels’ wife pays the ultimate price. Eight years down the line, Niels’ career has taken a wild turn from law enforcement to that of a miserable driving instructor. With a rebellious side that can be chalked up to her age and a notorious rage she’s inherited from her parents, Charlotte is a handful now. Niels’ painful streak of false alarms is broken when he gets a reliable hunch about the gang resurfacing to carry out a heist using the fateful blend of chemicals that took his wife’s life.
How Does Niels Find The Chemist? Who Is Dutso Kovo?
If The Squad: Home Run isn’t too keen on taking itself seriously, who are we to strangle its innocence? For the narrative style the film chooses as its foundation, it’s not entirely ridiculous that Niels’ former squad, excluding Aurore, the new captain with an obvious crush on him, has had enough of his baseless claims and paranoia over the years. What they fail to recognize, thanks to their prejudices against the man who’s molded by his grief, is that he’s onto something. It wouldn’t exactly be fair of us to chide him for his initial speculation, which was quite convincing, if you think about it. But being the muck or nettle guy that he is, there’s no sense in expecting Niels to throw in the towel. He’s not above turning his charm on and fooling his cop friend Ricci into giving him access to a police computer. He does get lucky quite a few times. And here’s where you’re supposed to shut your brain off and treat yourself to the wacky theatrics Niels and Charlotte find themselves being sucked into. Locating and scaring the bejesus out of the chemist turns out to be a cakewalk for the rusty cop, and he has Charlotte’s assistance to thank for that.
Unfortunately, the newly-made yin-yang that the chemist is mighty proud of is already flying to its intended destination on a drone. You might think that Niels and Charlotte heroically bringing an evidently combat-trained henchwoman to her knees was just for the giggles. But it’s her arrest that nudges Niels’ cynical ex-coworkers to take him a bit more seriously. Say what you will about Niels and his comically embarrassing lack of cop instincts, but even without any backing from the squad, it doesn’t take him long to find out about Dutso Kovo. Remember the towering man from the opening sequence who was behind Niels’ wife’s death? Well, he happens to be a war criminal who was arrested and is about to be extradited. Considering Kovo and Seyo Vranic are the kind of friends who’d braid each other’s hair if they had any, it’s obvious that Vranic is helping Kovo escape the transportation van. You can say that life plays a hilarious joke on Niels when Charlotte’s hacker boyfriend, who helps him connect the dots, turns out to be none other than his hopeless driving student, who couldn’t parallel park if his life depended on it.
How Does Niels Get His Revenge?
The thing about The Squad: Home Run is that it’s unapologetically sunshine and butterflies through and through. You would probably be a little taken aback at the mention of a narrative like this not riding the coattails of the obvious pathos the protagonist is expected to be buried under. On paper, The Squad: Home Run would sound irredeemably bogus. Yet what it lacks in a grounded exploration of plausible emotions, it more than makes up for with its organic exuberance. Niels’ friends, who share the same oath that was once taken by the man himself, have no option but to prioritize law and order before their erratic friend’s whims. But that doesn’t mean they’re not the best friends one could ask for.
The closeness and mutual affection that can transcend the rules of workplace boundaries and even those of friendship come alive in the father-son dynamic between Niels and Serge Buren. It’s through Ricci’s tireless faith in the unstable, grieving ex-cop that the significance of reassurance is communicated. If it weren’t for these people, Niels and Charlotte would be caught up in the self-destructive patterns that they’re so clearly inclined toward. Their incoherent concerns are given a genuine ear, and they’re granted the kind of help that they frankly couldn’t do without. Yet what takes the cake is the real Niels’ resurrection from the clumsy man he’d become. And this is where The Squad: Home Run deviates from the path it has been following all along and takes a bold stance, centralizing the father-daughter theme as the life force of the film.
On the one hand, we have Niels and Charlotte, propelled by a desire for vengeance and an indomitable urge to rain on the gang’s parade. On the other hand, we have Kovo’s daughter with the saddest puppy eyes, willing to exploit her combat skills and free her father from the armored van using the yin-yang. In case you were wondering, yin-yang, also known as Octanitrocubane, much to the horror of Niels, who’d break a few teeth trying to pronounce it, cuts through practically anything, even an armored police vehicle. With their dicey plan set in motion, Niels and Charlotte exploit luck’s most implausible twists and turns and derail the gang’s plan. Niels even gets to have his poetic revenge by orchestrating a similar yin-yang explosion to the one that killed his wife to send Kovo to the hospital. But what’s the fun in having it end at that? It’s when Charlotte is abducted by Kovo’s daughter, and the ransom they’re asked for is Kovo himself, that Niels and his cop buddies face the dilemma of a lifetime.
So far, all Niels and Charlotte have had on their side has been sheer dumb luck and absolutely absurd plans. So why not roll the dice once again when he’s facing the kind of loss that he would never recover from? With his squad by his side and his faith in Charlotte’s survival instincts, Niels takes a wild plunge and seems to reap its benefits by securing Charlotte’s safety without giving Kovo up to his daughter. But it’s Niels we’re talking about. Since when has he made the right decisions when it comes to his own safety or even estimated his own capabilities in a sensible way?
At the end of The Squad: Home Run, the film crawls back to its tried and tested trope of pitting two units of father and daughter against each other to grant itself a run-of-the-mill good vs. evil conclusion. When Kovo’s daughter quickly employs her skills in incapacitating her captor, and Niels now has a gun to his head, it’s Charlotte who comes to the rescue. One daughter, who was smart enough to steal a handful of chemical-loaded balls from the chemist, faces another who has given it her best to free her war criminal father. The difference between the two is that Charlotte would sacrifice herself without a second thought if it meant her father would be safe.
In all her combative glory, that is not the kind of strength that Kovo’s daughter could conjure up when she needed to. With Kovo, his gang, and his beloved daughter behind bars, Niels and Charlotte now have closure on the tragedy that has been hindering their growth and happiness all along. Chances are, Niels would likely give in to the charming moves Aurore has been making to win him over. As for Charlotte, well, you’ve seen her. She’s a firecracker if there ever was one. Something tells me she’ll not just be fine but thrive now that she knows that her mother’s death has been avenged.