Lupin: A Modern Twist on the Classic French Tale of the Gentleman Thief

“Omar Sy brings his usual charm to the role. He plays Assane’s whit, intelligence and cleverness to perfection from the beginning.”

Check out our review of Lupin!

In episode 1, Assane is introduced through his job as a janitor at the Louvre. Little by little the viewer is shown Assane’s daily life. From his job, to meeting with his ex Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) to talk about their son, to dealing with the local thugs he owes money to. The episode draws you in with a seemingly simple story of a thief trying to hit paydirt before slowly revealing a bigger mystery at play that is entwined to Assane’s past.

The object of Assane’s desire, the Queen’s necklace, has more than a monetary value to the gentleman thief. The necklace belongs to the Pellegrini family who Assane’s father once worked for as a butler and chauffeur. His father was framed for stealing the necklace and seemingly killed himself in jail when Assane was 14 years old. Left an orphan, Assane eventually becomes a thief, having been inspired by the novel Arsene Lupin, given to him by his father shortly before his death. In the present, the heist seemingly goes awry, only for Assane to use the opening monologue of Lupin to explain that he needs to start from the beginning as the finale minutes of the episode take us back two weeks before the heist to show the viewer his real plan.

Omar Sy brings his usual charm to the role. He plays Assane’s whit, intelligence and cleverness to perfection from the beginning. Young actor, Mamadou Haidara stands out as young Assane as we see his journey into becoming the master thief he is in the present. He perfectly matches the pace of Omar’s performance. In particular, the scenes between Mamadou as young Assane and his father played by Fargass Assandé feel bitter sweet as you see the love between them, yet know his father’s inevitable fate.

Throughout the five episodes of Part One, several performances manage to stand out for me among the rest. Like the trio of detectives Romain (Vincent Londez), Sofia (Shirin Boutella), and Youseff (Soufiane Guerrab). Their dynamic works effectively both dramatically and comedically as the more sensible Romain and Sofia often roll their eyes at Youseff’s seemingly impossible theories about their investigation into Diop, that just so happen to be correct. More often than not, Youseff will correctly deduce that Diop’s crimes are inspired by the stories of Arsene Lupin, only to be mocked or ignored by his peers who believe there is a more logical explanation than a string of crimes being committed by a copycat gentleman thief. It is only when they dig deeper that they realize Youseff may be correct. However Romain and Sofia also realize this puts them in danger as well since one of their superiors seems to be directly involved with the case. 

My favorite character/performance however, aside from Sy and Haidara, was Anne Benoit as Fabienne Beirot. Beirot is a journalist with a grudge of her own against Pelligrini, who crosses paths with Assane and acts as a confidant. Her frustration with Pelligrini runs so deep, that she even taught her dog to bark at the mention of his name Her attitude and wit often even outshines that of Assane. 

Aside from my enjoyment of Lupin, there were a few things I would have liked to see more of. For instance, even though they are an important part of Assane’s life, I would have liked to see more about Claire and their son Raoul outside of their connection to Assane. We do see a lot of Claire, both in present times and flashback, but we don’t learn much of her life outside of Assane until closer to the end of part one. While she is aware of Assane’s double life to an extent, we never see how much she really knows or anything about her day to day life. The same could be said about Raoul to a lesser extent. Though I’m more willing to excuse it in his case, as he makes fewer appearances than his mother to begin with.

Another criticism I had while watching was the mixed feeling of being glad that the issue of Assane’s heritage as a Senegalese immigrant is a big part of the story, but also disappointed that aside from Assane, his father and a few side characters, there aren’t really other dark skinned black people in this show. Assane himself seems to know no other black people outside of his supervisor from his short lived stint as a janitor. It’s something I’m hesitant to critique as the racism both Assane and his father face are a catalyst for the events that play out. However it’s something I hope they rectify in the future. 

With that being said, Lupin is definitely a show to look out for. It’s a well written heist drama that reveals itself to be a bigger mystery than what it causes its viewer to assume. Assane Diop will certainly be a memorable role for Sy and I look forward to seeing where it continues from the cliffhanger in Part One whenever the second half is released. Lupin promises to be one of the best shows of 2021 and I’m excited to see if it lives up to the expectations it has set for itself.

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