There's a short scene about halfway through Chrysalis that's so beautifully staged it nearly lifts the whole movie up a few notches from its natural place as marvelously-crafted, but ultimately middle-rung sci-fi/action. In that scene, we get to see a doctor of the not-too-distant-future assisting in the operation of a patient who isn't physically there, through the use of a virtual reality matrix that recreates both the body being operated on and the tools for the operating. Up until that scene, we've known that we're in a not-too-distant-future that has some plausible advancements in technology, including some scary ray-guns, but the film has wisely restrained itself from giving us flashy details just for the sake of showing off its future-world, so when the operating scene hits it somehow comes across as both believable and wondrous. There are other stand-out moments as well that must be mentioned, including several punishing fight scenes that come courtesy of fight choreographer Alain Figlarz, of The Bourne Identity, and a complicated nighttime shot near the end that's so well-produced it leaps out at you.

Albert Dupontel stars as Hoffman, a quiet, no-nonsense police detective who is single-mindedly pursuing a nasty villain named Nicolov (Figlarz) who we only vaguely know to be involved in some kind of nefarious human trafficking scheme. Hoffman learns the dangers of getting in Nicolov's way in the film's opening scene, which is not only its most brutal and also includes one of the best-staged gun battles I've seen in a while. Director Julien Leclercq had me scrambling to my computer after the Chrysalis screening to look up his resume, and I was surprised to see that this is his feature debut -- he already has more impressive action chops than many Hollywood veterans. I was impressed with the energy and the action and even wowed by a couple of the individual scenes, but I can't get around the fact that the overall story is more or less a tossed salad of warmed-over sci-fi ideas. I wanted the quality of the story and its ideas to match the high quality of the moviemaking, and on that level, the film disappoints.