It may not be an oft-asked question, but if you've ever wondered what happens when former pro soccer players go bad, perhaps as a result of financial mismanagement, this is the film you've been waiting for. On the Trail of Igor Rizzi (its English title) follows Jean-Marc Thomas (Laurent Lucas) through a cold Canadian winter as he
ponders the good ol' days and the girlfriend he refused to commit to, all the while playing listlessly with a soccer ball that seems to be his last earthly possession. He's a bit like Tom Hanks's character from Cast Away, except the island he has washed up on is Montreal.
Jean-Marc has been making his living through crimes so ill-conceived it would be generous to call them petty. He decides to step it up a notch by accepting a contract for a hit, but in an odd reversal has to dispose of a corpse before he sets out to create a new one. He's not skilled in either art (what sniper worth his salt eats crackers on a stakeout?), but he justifies this change in goals by telling himself, "It's Igor Rizzi's life vs. my rent, my food and my electricity bill." (The guy's-gotta-eat defence.) Michel (Pierre-Luc Brillant) is Jean-Marc's sort-of friend, almost partner in crime and sometime chess opponent, on screen just often enough to let us know the whole plot isn't a figment in the soccer player's mind.
Writer-director Noel Mitrani has led an odd double life as a Canadian raised in France. The result is that his Jean-Marc character plays like a kind of singular Trailer Park Boy, but with existential angst and enigmatic dreams. The overall tone of the film is funny, more bleak than ha-ha, although on the backstreets of Montreal the frozen slush turns even the simplest walk in the snow into a slip-sliding Keystone Kops moment. Mitrani is also an expert at capturing the painful cold of winter; every step his characters take cracks and groans on the packed snow underfoot, and every rattling Montreal fire escape sounds like it will splinter in the frigid air.
Igor Rizzi was named one of the top 10 Canadian films of 2006 by the Toronto International Film Festival Group (though how Fido and Bon Cop, Bad Cop failed to make the cut is a mystery). It may not be to all tastes, being a touch slow and quiet, but it does prove there is life (and death) after soccer. It also weaves an eclectic English soundtrack into its storyline. Who knew that Bobby Vinton's lonely summer ballad Sealed With a Kiss could play so well in the midst of a frosty Quebec winter?