Compulsive, slick Netflix thriller ramps up the fireworks

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Lupin is heart-in-your-throat, gasping-at-your-TV stuff.

If you thought the first half of the slick French heist thriller was already exciting, it’s really ramped up the fireworks for the second five episodes.

Every episode is compulsive viewing, a wild ride from minute one to the closing credits, each a cliffhanger that leaves you slamming that “watch next episode” button, because waiting another 10 seconds for the autoplay to kick in would be too long.

For those who didn’t catch the first half in January when it was released – assuming there are any left of you given Netflix claimed 76 million accounts watched it within the first month of debut – Lupin is a modern crime drama inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s century-old novels about gentlemen thief Arsene Lupin.

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This 2021 version centres on Assane Diop (Omar Sy), the son of a Senegalese immigrant and number one Lupin fan, who plans and pulls off a series of heists, starting with an elaborate con at the Louvre involving a priceless diamond necklace that once belonged to a French queen.

Assane isn’t just heisting for kicks – though he’s clearly getting a thrill out of it, like we are – because it’s all part of a wider plan to exact revenge and expose the dastardly Hubert Pellegrini (Herve Pierre) who is responsible for tearing Assane away from his father at a young age.

Pellegrini is one of those great villains you just love to hate, an uber-wealthy and influential business tycoon with his dirty fingers in many unseemly pies. He’s a man who is pretty loathsome on his own but whose character’s effectiveness works double as a stand-in for the corruption, criminality and even racism of the powerful elite working to maintain the status quo and to oppress anyone who dares challenge it.

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He’s the opposite of Assane, the child of an immigrant, a black man in modern day France, who’s had to use his wits, wiles and creativity to be locked in a battle of wills against Pellegrini.

Like many of the great entries in the heist genre, including Ocean’s 11, Lupin always keeps a few secrets from the audiences until the end, which gets our pulses racing trying to puzzle it together. Oh, the absolute smugness when you do.

If you haven’t seen the first five episodes, maybe jump out of this review for now, because we’re about to veer into some part one spoiler territory. This is your first and final warning.

Also, don’t forget to watch it without the English dubbing. Watch it in French with subtitles – it’s so much better.

With the first half ending on the kidnapping of Assane and Claire’s (Ludivine Sagnier) son Raoul (Etan Simon) by one of Pellegrini’s henchman while police officer Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab) closes in, Assane seems out of options.

The race to save his son from Pellegrini’s clutches is a dangerous game while the rest of the series is escalation after escalation until a final confrontation at a very public event.

Assane has always preferred to work in the shadows, and his exposure is going to make things very difficult. But that’s where new allies and old friend Ben (Antoine Gouy) comes in handy – and the flashbacks to when Assane and Ben were schoolboys really help cement this friendship which becomes more important in this back half of the series.

And, of course, now that we’ve been stranded on our very large island for 15 months, the allure of all those Parisian sights is even more glittering than six months earlier. With the likes of the Arc de Triomphe, the banks of the Seine, Pont Neuf, Musee d’Orsay and the Catacombs, it will reignite that itch to hop on a plane – even though we can’t.

Like its leading star Sy, Lupin is a series that oozes with charisma and charm, a polished and appealing production that’s so winning, you’ll give up your firstborn for another hit.

There are some plot holes, a few untidy questions that make you go, “Ah, but…?” but they’re easily forgiven because when you have this much of a rollicking good time with a series, you don’t sweat the small stuff.

Lupin part two is available to stream on Netflix on Friday, June 11 at 5pm AEST

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