What is the story about?
Franck, a music video director and Thomas, a cinematographer, are sent by a music recording label to a shady neighbourhood somewhere in the south of France, to shoot a music video starring Tony. Tony is an ex-convict who has returned to his neighbourhood and still runs his old gang of drug-peddlers, but he harbours dreams of being a rapper and giving up the profession. But as Franck and Thomas join Tony, they get increasingly embroiled in a deadly war between rival drug gangs. Can Franck and Thomas make it out of the neighbourhood alive?
It's great to see Netflix take a break from long-format storytelling and dip their toes in the crazy, exciting world of short-form video. Each episode of Dealer is roughly between eight and thirteen minutes long, but it would be a huge disservice to judge this show purely on that count. Directors Ange Basterga and Nicolas Lopez, together with co-writer Nicolas Peufaillit, make sure that each episode packs a solid punch. The quality of writing is unbelievably good. Each episode packs so much in its storyline that you can't think of doing anything else while watching this. The directors manage to capture the grime and grit of the neighbourhood, where life is cheap and everyone longs to either be powerful or break out of the life, using the same found-footage narrative device used in films like Sex, Lies & Videotape and LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha.
The story revolves around the character of Tony, and it is to the makers' credit that they portray him as someone who wants to be in control of everything. He wants to be a rapper, but feels that his criminal empire and rapping career can co-exist. The economy of writing is so impressive that back-stories of several characters are skillfully brought out in everyday mundane conversations, and the action sequences are grittily filmed. However, its the element of omnipresent danger that heightens the dramatic impact to dizzying levels. Overall, this is a bingeable miniseries that will leave you craving for more.
As Tony, Abdramane Diakite is impressive. His druglord-cum-rapper is not just a caricature, but a living, breathing human being who is a bundle of contradictions. Sebastian Houbani is aptly vulnerable as Franck, the hapless director. The breakout star, however, is Sebastien Houbani, who is fiercely loyal and ferocious as Moussa, Tony's childhood friend and confidante.
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Julien Meurice's cinematography is the real star of this series. Footage from multiple GoPro cameras is merged with tremendous dramatic effect, creating a hazy, claustrophobic world. Serge Borgel's production design is top-notch.
The shootout sequences are impressively filmed.
Sometimes, the pace gets too relentless. You have to pause, rewind and play certain scenes again to check if you missed any detail or not.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes. I was hooked on to each and every scene, wondering what'll happen next.
Do I recommend it?
Hell yeah. In spite of being pocket-sized, each episode immerses you in Tony's dog-eat-god world completely.