Outside The Law is a thrilling post-World War II gangster story about three brothers who become separated after losing their family home in Algeria. Messaoud joins the French army fighting in Indochina; Abdelkader becomes a leader of the Algerian independence movement in France and Sa ïd moves to Paris to make his fortune in the shady clubs and boxing halls of Pigalle. Gradually, their interconnecting destinies reunite them in the French capital, where freedom is a battle to be fought and won. Outside The Law has its place among some of the greatest gangster movies ever made, including American Gangster and Once Upon a Time in America.
‘Outside the Law’ is director Rachid Bouchareb’s fictionalization of the formation of the National Liberation Front in Algeria during its campaign for independence from France in 1962, through the varied and intersecting lives of three brothers. ‘Outside the Law’ is a revenge-gangster-film noir that realistically portrays violence and the cost of true freedom.
We begin with images set in 1925 in which the French Code de l’Indigénat evicts a poor Algerian family from their ancestral home to make room for the French colonists. We then jump 20 years in the future during V-E day in France, seeing Algerian soldiers being shot by French soldiers without explanation. Then in 1954 Paris, we are introduced to the brothers — Saïd, Abdelkader , and Messaoud, who reunite at a shanty town in Nantere.
We learn that the brothers have led very separate and distinct lives: Said is a night club owner and boxing promoter, Abdelkader was accused of sedition and imprisoned, and Messaoud fought in Indochina (Vietnam) on the side of the French. With machinations of Abdelkader, the FLN is born and together, they become revolutionaries and terrorists, as both brands can walk that fine line.
‘Outside the Law’ is realistic, brutal, and political. It minces no words and points a finger directly at France for the consequences of their actions and atrocities to Algeria and its people. The eye for an eye mission of FLN is clandestine and threatening at the same time, a sad but necessary chapter for the group to achieve independence. The film also pays tribute to ‘The Godfather’, particularly the drama between the three brothers and their commitment to each other, fighting together for whatever the cause may be. There is still a premium on family even when the family business is lawlessness.
The film examines colonization as a tool for violence and oppression, and gives light to why the FLN had to be created. Obviously, ‘Outside the Law’ is none too kind to France but what is history if not painful?