The Fall of the American Empire

Jul 15, 2019

A summer heist  both funny and thrilling.

The Fall of the American Empire

Grade: B+

Director: Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions)

Screenplay: Arcand

Cast: Maxim Roy (Bad Blood), Alexandre Landry (Gabrielle)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2hrs 7 min

By: John DeSando

“Imbeciles worship cretins,” the hero’s answer to why 63 million Americans voted for Trump.

If you miss the old Ealing Studios’ capers like The Lavender Hill Mob, with their brainy, dry-comical heists, while you’re still longing for the serious crime done well, then The Fall of The American Empire is your summer ticket to nostalgia, suspense, and flat-out eccentrics on both sides of the law.

Breezy with enough social and political heft to make it au courant, Fall is a bit fantastical yet rooted in a realistic human ignorance accessible enough to let us in on the brilliant and the stupid. Case in point: The hero is clueless Pierre-Paul (Alexandre Landry, a Jesse Eisenberg type), a delivery boy who stumbles on a cache from a heist gone south. An avowed stereotypically upright-citizen, he grabs the money and runs.

As we know from heist films and life itself, there’s no running from the effects, no matter how collateral, of a significant robbery. Pierre-Paul, to compound his confusion, falls for high-priced whore Aspasie (Maripier Morin) and gets her to help him disperse the money to causes worthy of a Church charity. Somewhere here is a whiff of Pretty Woman.

With a boatload of interesting cons and wheeler-dealers, the bad do-gooders play cat and mouse with a team of detectives just behind them at almost every move. Even as high stakes as the crime is, the principals are as charming as if right out of The Thomas Crown Affair, demanding our sympathy and tearing us between with is right and what is sympathetic.

Because this is more caper than crime, at least for the principals, summer seems right for its lightness. With an outcome relying on good old legal capitalism, The Fall of the American Empire is a Danny Ocean’s-like comic-thriller with the expected good feeling ending.

Suspenseful and quirky, Fall should please just about everyone. No crime in that.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at