In illustrated, news, Review

Original caricature by Jeff York of Omar Sy in the Netflix series LUPIN (copyright 2023)

If you’re looking for a fun show to binge, look no further than LUPIN on Netflix. In three seasons on the streaming service, the French caper series has charmed audiences the world over with its rollicking adventures of international thief Assane Diop. The show is essentially a riff on Robin Hood with Diop robbing elite scum to bring them down and restore some much-needed justice to the world. The Paris-based series is extremely charming, slyly amusing, and sneaky as hell in its execution of “how’d they do that?” heists. Each episode plays almost like a magician’s showcase with Assane pulling off capers that would make even the best showman shake their head in disbelief. In an age when heist-themed entertainments are few, this one does the genre exceedingly proud.

Assane (Omar Sy) is a man in his early 40s who grew up in Paris without parents for the most part and learned his way to survive via the streets. Growing up amongst the riff-raff and realizing early on that Paris’ elected officials were corrupt up to their eyeballs, Assane turned to a life of crime. Played by Mamadu Haidara in flashbacks, the show does an excellent job of connecting the dots between Assane’s past and present in each of the episodes, and those details give the show even more depth. They illuminate why characters do what they do, and add a layer of meaning to the cons being pulled too.

The show’s title refers to Arsäne Lupin, the gentleman thief from a series of books written in France in the 1900s, who serves as Assane’s role model. Lupin too owed a lot to Robin Hood as he became a heroic antihero in the books, calling out the bourgeoise and holding them accountable for their sins against French society.

Now it’s Assane taking aim at the one-percent Parisians, only this season the stakes are even more immediate and personal. His long-lost mother has returned to reconcile with her adult son only to be immediately kidnapped by a past enemy of Assane’s. In the third season arc, Assane must do the bidding of this interloper to ensure her safety, so each heist becomes life and death.

That may sound heavy, but the show hasn’t lost any of its buoyancy. Quite the opposite in fact since each of the new heists Assane must perform for the kidnapper is more ludicrous than the last. But still, Assane finds a way to pull them off. This season finds him stealing art and precious jewels from museums and mansions, dressing up in multiple guises to sneak into this place and that, and even defying death to perform his derring-do. In one, elongated con, Assane fakes his own death and cemetery burial to keep the long con going, incorporating landscape architecture, brittle wood, and his dog J’Accuse as his accomplice.

The same returning cast of characters continue in support and they’re all terrific, including Ludivine Sagnier as Assane’s loving, but long-suffering wife, Antoine Gouy as his BFF Benjamin, and Youssef Guédira as the detective chasing after Assane who secretly cheers him on.  The show, created by George Kay and François Uzan, makes the most of Paris too, showcasing the City of Lights better than any entertainment stateside since AMELIE.

The show always plays fair with their con artistry too, showing exactly what went into the crime after we in the audience have been gobsmacked. And Sy underplays everything wisely so as to not make Assane into a character too full of himself. Sy is droll, warm, and very physical in the part, running all about constantly, and seeming to do a majority of his stunts.

Perhaps the greatest con of the show is how it tries to convince us that no one in all of Paris ever sees Assane coming a mile away, in disguise or not, as Sy is tall and bulky, with unique and strong features. Sy looks like an NBA power forward towering over all the wee Frenchmen, but somehow we’re supposed to believe that his minimal disguises hide him decisively. They don’t. And the show is all the funnier for not really trying too hard to do so!

Each season of LUPIN has ended with a great cliffhanger and this third one is no exception. It’s a doozy, as is this whole season. Wildly entertaining, and even quite moving in its way as well. And Sy is so good, he really should be in the discussion of candidates to be the next 007. Netflix is promising worldwide viewership a fourth season of LUPIN, but just when that series will drop remains to be seen. Watch this space…

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