'Black'

A groovy 70s-style adaptation of Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra (you know, the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey) sets a funky tone for the opening of Black, which moves briskly and efficiently from a slickly-shot "armored car robbery gone bad" in Paris to a modern update of Shaft in Africa to a lunatic, witchy, bastard offspring of Cat People and Ssssss. It's gloriously lunatic.

All credit to screenwriters Lucio Mad and Gábor Rassov for conjuring up such a fantastic tale, and to director/co-scenarist Pierre Laffargue for framing the action in such a realistic manner. If those names sound suspiciously French to you, yes, people, this is another crazy French genre flick; think of it as the Gallic cousin of The Bourne Identity if Jason Bourne was an ambitious, African-born Parisian criminal set loose on the streets of Dakar, Senegal.

The title character, played by rap artist MC Jean Gab'1 (District B13), survives a botched heist and then gets a phone call from his cousin in Dakar. It seems that a tiny bag filled with big diamonds has been placed in a local bank's safe deposit box for safekeeping, and cousin has the key to the box. All they have to do is blow through inadequate security and pay off a few underpaid guards, and the diamonds will be theirs. Black's eyes light up, and before you can count to three, he's on a plane to Dakar with three of his buddies.

Black was born in Senegal but moved away as a child and has never returned. He views his homecoming through opportunistic, criminal eyes, disgusted by the poverty and apparent simplicity of the people, and all too ready to take advantage of his cousin's tip. His arrival is the tipping point in a series of ever-escalating, mad adventures.