Top 10 reasons why I love Netflix’s LUPIN series

LUPIN was one of my most-anticipated series on Netflix which I’ve talked about briefly in this post. It’s a 10-part miniseries inspired master thief Arsène Lupin, created by French novelist Maurice Leblanc.

Here’s the trailer again if you haven’t seen it yet:

Now, so far only 5 episodes of the miniseries have been released. Per Wiki, the second set were already filmed by the end of 2020 and are slated to be released in mid-2021. So you have plenty of time to catch up before the final 5 eps arrives.

Here’s just 10 reasons why you should absolutely watch LUPIN:

(There might be some SPOILERS in this post but I’ll be sure to warn and hide them if you haven’t seen this series yet) 

1. Great source material

I used to read a bunch of Dutch & Belgian graphic novels like Danny & Katia (which I can’t seem to find anywhere here in the US), Adventures of Tintin, etc. I also read some thriller novels like Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon, but for some reason I’ve never heard of Arsène Lupin. Created in 1905 Maurice Leblanc – part Sherlock Holmes, part Robin Hood but decidedly French.

Like Robin Hood, Lupin is a force for good even though he operates on the wrong side of the law. His victims are usually big establishments or the extremely wealthy who are basically worse than him. Apparently Leblanc’s novels also inspired Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, aka Simon Templar who’s also a master of disguise.

2. Omar Sy

I had only seen Omar Sy in Intouchables and I remember he has such a great screen presence. He plays another French-Immigrant from Senegal here as Assane Diop, a stylishly-dressed gent who uses his undeniable charm as well as masterful thievery + disguise skills. Though he’s not exactly an honest man, you just can’t help but be drawn to him and that charming smile.

The first time I saw the trailer I immediately thought he’s basically a French James Bond, and well, Sy himself confirmed the apt comparison.

Given how much I wish to see Idris Elba as Bond, watching the equally charismatic Omar playing Lupin is such a treat. I can even say Assane is even better than Bond as he is his own Q-department!

3. Intriguing plot that keep you guessing

The series creator George Kay is no stranger to British TV. He’s one of the creators of the various Criminal crime thriller series such as Criminal: UK, Criminal: France, etc. and he’s also been writing for The Tunnel and Killing Eve series.

I think it’s brilliant that Kay takes the source material as a base for the lead character, but then subvert and update it to make something suitable for the modern audience. Per his interview in Variety, “…Kay kept the sense of mischievous, adventurous crooks and criminals intersecting establishment, but  felt it was equally important to take everything we loved in the books, subvert it, update it and create a really modern story through the heart of it.” 

I think that made the story fresh while still in keeping with the mystery and suspense of the novels. There’s a parallel story between Assane and the team of detectives, particularly Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab), that culminates in the fifth episode (last ep of part 1). All of that adds to the dynamic storyline that makes the show so much fun to watch.

4. Emotional backstory

I have to credit the show runner and the writers for interweaving Assane’s past in such a clever way. Sometimes flashbacks don’t work well and can slow the pace down, but here, the flashback is done quite seamlessly. It also helps that they cast the right actors for the role of young Assane (Mamadou Haidara) and his father Babakar (Fargass Assandé). It shows how Babakar used to work for Hubert Pellegrini, a powerful figure of the French elite who owns the Marie-Antoinette diamond necklace. It’s a relatable immigrant story that’s relevant in today’s world.

The tragic past that befallen Babakar is what drives Assane to do what he does now, and of course it’s also his father who first introduced the Lupin novels to him. It shows how the teenage Assane is obsessed with the gentleman thief novel, and 25 years later he uses everything he learns from it to avenge his father and expose Pellegrini.

5. Great blend of comedy + action

French filmmaker Louis Leterrier (who directed The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, etc.) is no stranger to action-packed movies. I love how LUPIN is packed with thrilling action with a large dose of humor right from the start. The elaborate heist scene during an action at the Louvre (shot at the actual famous museum) is reminiscent of something out of Mission Impossible movies, complete with impeccable timing and a crazy car chase AND a red Ferrari crashing through the museum’s iconic glass ceiling!

There’s a foot-chase through rooftops that are really fun to watch as well, but my favorite action scene has got to be this exhilarating chase involving a food delivery bike riders through a Parisian park! It’s just one of Assane’s genius scheme to fool the cops while he effortlessly escapes from their grasp.

6. Parisian scenery

Well, that brings me to the stunning scenery of the City of Light. I think we’re all dying to be able to travel again so all we can do is live vicariously through the characters we watch on screen. I’ve been on a French kick lately, following Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent) which is also set in Paris, and I just can’t get enough!

This Condé Nast Traveller article lists all the locations used for the series which I’ll definitely refer to next time I go to Paris again. I love the the café where Assane meets his wife Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) in episode 1, that’s L’Appartement Saint-Martin, with views of the 17th-century Porte Saint Martin. I also love the flea market where Assane’s bestie Benjamin (Antoine Gouy) owns an antique shop. It’s located in Marché Biron, north of Paris. Speaking of Benjamin, I really like the deep friendship between these two, which apparently has started since they were in school together.

The fifth episode also takes us out of Paris to Normandy coast, a town called Le Havre. I actually did a bunch of research of that port city for my script Hearts Want (as my lead character actually took a ferry from Portsmouth, UK). Apparently there’s an annual festival dedicated to Arsène Lupin where everyone is dressed like the character with the top hat.

7. Formidable villain with ties to the hero’s past

If Robin Hood has The Sheriff of Nottingham, Assane Diop’s primary antagonist is Hubert Pellegrini (Herve Pierre), a wealthy, powerful member of the Parisian establishment. Just as power and corruption often go together, SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) Pellegrini even has police inspector Dumont (Vincent Garanger) to do the dirty work for him in framing Assane’s father.

There’s also a mysterious connection between Assane and Hubert’s beautiful daughter Juliette (Clotilde Hesme), also shown in flashback where the pretty teen seduced the young, naive Assane in her mansion’s swimming pool. SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) One episode even hints that perhaps Juliette harbors unrequited feelings for Assane?

One thing for sure, the Pellegrini is a ruthless force to be reckoned with. Episode 4 is particularly suspenseful as Assane teams up with a journalist, Fabienne Bériot (Anne Benoît) whose reputation been tarnished by Pellegrini because she tried to expose him in her book.

8. Wonderfully-diverse characters

I think just by having a black French actor as the lead reflects the reality of a more ethnically diverse country. It also gives the show an international appeal, so I’m not surprised that the show’s been well-received all over the world.

It’s great that the show-runner also fills the supporting roles with non-white actors. The actor who play police lieutenant Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab) was also in a Call My Agent episode. He’s the only one who believes there’s a connection between the Louvre suspect (that is Assane) with Arsène Lupin, yet his peers always brush him off.

The team of police investigating the Louvre incident – Youssef is the one on the far right

Besides hiring a good number of actors of color, I also appreciate that the show also doesn’t always show the glamorous side of Parisians and all the chic luxury we often associate with the fashionable city. I mentioned about Fabienne Bériot above, well, the disgraced former journalist now lives in a rundown apartment with her dog. It wasn’t until Assane approached her that she finally feels alive once again. This is perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching episodes given what happens to Fabienne in the end.

9. A multi-dimentional hero

Assane is more than a gentleman burglar and master of disguise. Unlike Sherlock Holmes or Simon Templar, what sets Assane apart is that he is a family man. Right from the first episode, we see Assane meeting his ex-partner Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) and has a son together. Though they’re no longer together, they still have an amicable relationship and he still supports them.

I love the relationship between them, there’s a certain playfulness and also realism in the way Raoul (Etan Simon) behaves as a teenager. Of course, given that Assane lost his own father at a young age, he really tries to be there for his son. The Lupin novel ends up being passed down through generations as there’s a lovely scene where Assane gives the book to Raoul. Now, obviously given the difference in life circumstances, the book might not mean as much to Raoul as it did to Assane in his youth.

Assane is also not a violent man and though he’s been hurt in the past, he doesn’t become a sullen nor vicious. The way he deals with Inspector Dumont is a great example and it’s refreshing not to see any of the brutality you see on SO many shows these days. I love how he fools the entire police department while teaching Dumont a lesson in the process.

10. Fun escapism with style + plenty of heart

The series’ great production values is fantastic – the cinematography, action set pieces, locations, etc. all makes for a fun escapism series. It’s definitely the most fun crime caper series on TV right now. So many crime shows are way too serious for its own good, but LUPIN has the right balance of humor, mystery, suspense, as well as emotional familial story that makes you care for the hero’s journey.

Oh, I have to say Assane Diop’s got to be one of the best-dressed hero on TV, not surprising given the Parisian setting. My husband and I always comment on all the cool outfits and footwear he wears every episode. Whether formal or casual, Assane looks like he’s straight out of a GQ photoshoot!


Can’t wait for Part 2!!

Now the worst part of LUPIN is there’s only 5 episodes!! I don’t know why Netflix isn’t releasing all 10 episodes as I believe they’re done filming them. The cliffhanger on episode 5 has me reeling as it finally ties Assane with Youssef who’s also a big fan of the Lupin novels.

SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read)
Of course the big question is whether Youssef would turn Assane in, but my gut says no, as technically Youssef is off the case thanks to Dumont who clearly hasn’t learned his lesson and is still working with Pellegrini, ugh!



Well, have you seen LUPIN? I’d love to hear what YOU think!

Weekend Roundup Reviews: Now You See Me & The Kid With a Bike

First weekend of June and apparently the box office came crashing down after a strong Memorial weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Fast & Furious 6 fell 65% to about $34 mil, but yet it still took the top spot with Now You See Me ($28 mil) and After Earth ($27 mil) rounding up the top three. I had no interest in seeing the Will Smith (& son) movie, so even with two press screenings, I didn’t attend either one of them. Anyway, here are my reviews of the two I saw this past weekend:

NowYouSeeMePosterNow You See Me (2013)

An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I saw the trailer in front of Oblivion last month. It looks like a fun caper with a pretty decent cast, though I was mostly amused by the fact that Christopher Nolan’s Batman alums Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are together again on screen. Well, after seeing the movie, I actually find this interview of the two of them where Freeman dozed off right in the middle of it far more entertaining, ahah.

The movie started off promising enough, with a brief ‘origin’ story of sort how the world’s most popular team of illusionists The Four Horsemen came into being. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson made up the four of them, with Harrelson being the most amusing of them all by a small margin. The first magic trick that takes place certainly piques your interest and makes you go, ‘how the heck did they do that??‘ If you’ve seen the trailer, you might’ve seen the clip of thousands of dollar bills showering the audience of a live magic show. Well, the trick is a pretty cool one involving a French guy being teleported to his bank in Paris! A theft this big surely gets the attention of the FBI and the agent assigned to the case, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their trail. He gets help from pretty Interpol agent Alma (Mélanie Laurent) and there’s a hint of romance in their interaction which falls flat to me.

NowYouSeeMeStills

The last movie by French director Louis Leterrier was the horrible Clash of the Titans. Now this isn’t as bad as that one but really, that’s not saying much. I usually like caper action films and with the whole magic theme interwoven in it, the story is definitely promising. But Leterrier’s direction is so scatterbrained that the movie elicits eye rolls and gaping yawns [no wonder Freeman dozed off promoting this movie, ahah]. A few times during the movie I whispered to my hubby that this movie has a serious identity crisis. I mean, it’s trying to hard to be a mystery thriller, fast-paced action, romance drama, but it fails in all fronts. It also shifts its focus from the various characters in such a frenetic fashion that I barely care just who’s tricking who and what’s really at stake here. Then, as the heists gets even more daring and the action more bombastic, the film throws this big twist at the end that’s supposed be this huge shocker. Unfortunately, I’ve stopped caring by that point. The climax just isn’t all that rewarding after all the disconcerting ride this movie’s put us through. Plus, the flashback reveal is so lame and preposterous I practically threw my hands up in the air.

There are some cool scenes here and there but overall Now You See Me‘s is such a big waste of talents and material. I don’t care about any of the characters either. I mean, the fact that I kept referring to Freeman and Caine’s characters as Lucious Fox and Alfred should tell you just how memorable these characters are. I only remember Ruffalo’s character’s name as it’s cool enough to be a superhero alter ego, but Rhodes is so daft that his superiors must’ve been in a trance when they hired him, ahah. Apart from some cool scenes of the magic show that made me feel as if I were actually in Vegas watching a show, there’s barely any cinematic magic to speak of here. Even the action scenes are nothing groundbreaking, even the rather long car chase scene is nowhere near as exciting as the one Leterrier did in the first Transporter movie. Eisenberg’s character said that the first rule of magic is always be the smartest person in the room. Well, seems like such a person went ‘poof’ in the making of this movie!


2 out of 5 reels


TheKidwithaBikePosterThe Kid With a Bike (2011)

Abandoned by his father, a young boy is left in a state-run youth farm. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser agrees to foster him on weekends.

This film came highly recommended by a few of my closest bloggers. The story definitely appeals to me and right of the bat it reminds me of one of my favorite indie Dear Frankie as the protagonist is also abandoned by his father. The difference is, the 11-year-old Cyril doesn’t have a mother either and he reluctantly lives at a foster institution. Kids like Cyril are so broken that a life of delinquency seems inevitable, even if the stubborn and impulsive boy is actually a good kid at heart.

Seemingly by chance, Cyril runs into Samantha [literally!] as he was running away from his foster counselors. He’s been looking for his missing dad and his bike. Samantha (Cécile De France), a hairdresser in town, somehow finds out where his bike was sold and buys it back for Cyril. Her kind gesture doesn’t end there, she even offers to take Cyril with her on weekends, and she even agrees to take Cyril to find his dad.

What strikes me about this French film is how matter-of-fact the story goes right from the beginning. It doesn’t pull any punches on showing the pain and despair Cyril (Thomas Doret) goes through in his young life, and the cruelty of his own father in when he gives him up in order to start a fresh new life. Even as someone who grew up without a father myself, I don’t think I could fathom being deserted by my own parent in this manner. The scenes of Cyril and his dad who’s now moved to another town and works at a restaurant is heart-wrenching. It’s not just painful to see how his dad blatantly rejects him, but more so because Cyril refuse to accept that fact and is denial that his dad no longer wants him in his life.

TheKidwithaBikeStills

It’s almost inevitable that a kid like Cyril would fall into a bad crowd. So when a charismatic gang leader known as The Dealer practically recruits Cyril, I was terrified for what’s in store for this young boy. Thankfully, the film didn’t descent into some real sinister territory, and the resolution proves to be quite a turning point for the young protagonist. Even though it has an open-ended finale, I think we could guess just which path Cyril is finally on to. It’s nice to see something of substance after the vapid one I saw days before. It’s a simple film with barely any frills, but the story is really the *star* of the film.

I must admit though, that I didn’t quite connect with Cyril as much as I had hoped I would. I find myself quite frustrated with Cyril as he doesn’t warm up to Samantha despite her kindness towards her, and Doret’s not an expressive performer (I guess this being his first film is understandable). I do appreciate the fact that the filmmaker is perhaps presenting his character just the way he is, without manipulation or making him to be a sympathetic character. As with Samantha, I wish there’s more background on her character as there could be more time spent on why she was so adamant to help Cyril.

That said, I’m curious to see more from the Belgian filmmaker duo, brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Since making films in the late 70s, they’ve been garnering numerous awards and multiple Palme d’Or honors. This film won the Grand Prix at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe in Best Foreign Language Film. The cinematography of the city of Seraing (which happens to be the birthplace of the Dardennes), a French-speaking region in Belgium, is pretty scenic. Now, the use of music is so sparse that when it appears it almost took me out of the movie. From what I read about the filmmakers, they apparently rarely use music in their films which I find quite odd.

According to Wikipedia, the screenplay had a structure inspired by fairy tales. No wonder Samantha is portrayed like a fairy godmother. Yet the message of humanity in this film is quite inspiring, we could use more people like her in this world.


4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!