Review: Netflix's delightful French crime caper 'Lupin' pulls off the heist in Part 2
"Lupin" has done it again.
Well, technically Arsène Lupin, the fictional gentleman burglar immortalized in a series of early 20th-century books by Maurice Leblanc isn't the protagonist of Netflix's "Lupin," a French crime adventure that returned for its second installment Friday. In this "Lupin," Arsène is merely the inspiration for modern-day gentleman thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy), a dashing, noble criminal seeking justice for his late father, who was wrongly accused of theft 25 years ago.
But the series' writers certainly have pulled off a wickedly satisfying conclusion to the drama, which opened with a daring heist at Paris' famed Louvre Museum and only escalated from there. "Lupin" Part 2 (★★★½ out of four) manages to keep the tension, suspense and thrills going for five more episodes without too many outlandish plot twists. Between Sy's sparkling charm as the thief with a heart of gold and the beauty of Paris as a backdrop, "Lupin" certainly steals the screen, if not priceless necklaces and paintings from evil billionaires.
"Lupin" ended its first chapter in January with a cliffhanger: Assane's teen son Raoul (Etan Simon) was kidnapped by one of Hubert Pellegrini's (Hervé Pierre) more homicidal operatives, just as Officer Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab) spots Assane. The new episodes pick up at that exact moment, as the virtuous and dedicated police officer speaks to Assane for the first time. The pair team up in an attempt to rescue Raoul, although Guedira is not on board with Assane's life of crime.
No spoilers here, but the rest of the episodes concern Assane's increasingly urgent and sometimes desperate attempts to seek revenge on Pellegrini, not just for framing his father all those years ago, but for Pellegrini's attempt to have Assane murdered and Raoul kidnapped.
The new episodes are as captivating and thrilling as the first batch. Each positively vibrates with tension as Assane and Pellegrini square off in a complex war of crime and deceit. And for viewers worried that Assane seemed a bit too good and too lucky to be believable, Part 2 shows just how human and vulnerable the dashing Lupin impersonator can really be.
The only major flaw in "Lupin" remains that the rest of the characters aren't nearly as interesting or fleshed out as Assane himself. Pellegrini is a one-dimensional villain of greed and wrath. Assane's best friend Ben (Antoine Gouy) is so willing to go along with every scheme and put himself in danger that he feels more like a tool in Assane's arsenal than a man himself.
But for the most part, it's easy to disregard the supporting characters. Sy is a uniquely appealing actor who slides into the role with ease. Assane may be more of an antihero, considering how frequently he breaks the law and lets his son and ex-wife (and Raoul's mother) down. But Sy makes him feel like a superhero, slipping from one disguise to the next and punching bad guys as if he's Captain America. Or perhaps he's more like Captain France.
"Lupin" was a welcome diversion amid the COVID-19 pandemic, something gripping and boisterous to get us out of our quarantine funks. Its conclusion still feels apt, even as many places in the U.S. open up and vaccinations increase. Assane's jaunt through Paris may inspire viewers to get out of their houses for some adventure.
But here's hoping they choose more legal exploits.