NYT: Review of "Army of Crime"

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The closest person to a protagonist in the gripping historical mosaic “Army of Crime” is the eminent Armenian poet Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian). A militant Communist and hero of the French Resistance, executed by the Nazis in 1944, he is the noblest figure in a sprawling, semifictional movie that has enough characters to fill an entire neighborhood.

As the story begins in 1941 in occupied Paris, Germany has just invaded Russia. Manouchian, along with fellow Communists, is rounded up and detained at a nearby camp from which he is released after signing a document disavowing his politics. A reflective soul, scraps of whose poetry are heard in the film, Manouchian does not believe in killing. And the scenes of his rendezvous with his beautiful, adoring French wife, Mélinée (Virginie Ledoyen), who risks her life to bring him food while he is interned, lend the movie a faint romantic blush.

But when the Nazis crack down on the Resistance, Manouchian’s philosophy toughens. He joins the FTP-MOI, an armed unit of anti-fascist partisans — mostly Communist, mostly Jewish immigrants from Spain, Hungary, Poland, Armenia and Italy — and becomes its commander. For his terrorist initiation, he tosses a grenade into a group of German soldiers, as two younger colleagues swoop in and finish off those who are still alive....

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