Monica la mitraille

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Bonnie et les Clydes.”

I think this really comes down to a question of managing expectations. Hearing this was a film based on the life of Monica Proetti, Canada’s premiere female bank-robber, responsible for 20+ hold-ups before being gunned down by the cops… Well, seems like plenty of potential for action, doesn’t it? The reality is less concerned with the robberies, than the events which lead up to them. Monique Sparvieri (Bonnier) lives in the Montreal slums, working part-time as a hooker, for fun and profit. Her first husband Michael (Schorpion), is a safe-cracker who vanishes after his planned robbery is snatched from under his nose. She then hooks up with Gaston (Huard), another member of the team, and begins her own life of crime. When he is sent to jail in the mid-1960’s, she is left with limited options to provide for her children, and goes full-bore into the banking business, with yet another lover, Gerald (Dupuis).

It certainly shines light into the “whys” of her life, one that offered little or no hope of escaping the poverty of her upbringing. Crime, of one form or another, was the main way out, and that led to an extremely relaxed attitude towards law-breaking for Monica. The film does take too long to make this point: it’s 125 minutes in total, and could easily lose half an hour off that, though the performances, Bonnier’s in particular, are solid enough not to make it too much of a chore. But the raids themselves are perfunctory. They’re more snatch-and-grabs, with the gang aiming to spend little more than 30 second in the bank. The only one where there’s any real tension is the final robbery, where the gang gets lost in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, while Monica’s previously-jailed confederates huddle round a radio tuned to the police-band, from prison.

What we have here illustrates the tension between real-life and cinematic drama. The two rarely align perfectly, and I get the feeling this example was more concerned about factual accuracy and, inevitably, the entertainment value suffers as a result.

Dir: Pierre Houle
Star: Céline Bonnier, Roy Dupuis, Patrick Huard, Frank Schorpion

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