A laid-off worker devises a novel approach to finding a new job-by physically "eliminating" other possible applicants-in this mercilessly entertaining comedy from director Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing). Based on a pulp novel by American author Donald Westlake, The Ax puts outsourcing, downsizing, and other 21st Century business trends where they belong: on the chopping block. When we first meet the middle-aged Bruno, he appears to be a not-so-polished international assassin, but as he confesses his life's story we realize that murder is merely a stepping stone to a more ruthless dream: rejoining corporate life. Having been made redundant from his job in the paper-making industry, Bruno was unemployed, bitter, and humiliated for over two years until he decided to adapt capitalism's market forces to the labor market; in other words, to eliminate all competition, by any means necessary. When a prime job at a paper factory opens up, Bruno gathers the names of potential candidates, and starts "downsizing." Still a loving father and good husband, Bruno juggles dinner with his kids, couples counseling with his wife, and body disposals. José Garcia gives Bruno a bumbling appeal in his single-minded approach to avoiding "the ax," while Olivier Gourmet is suitably steel-jawed as a rival businessman high on Bruno's "redundancy" list. Like Battle Royale in a Wall Street setting, The Ax takes the logic of capitalism to its illogical extreme, and makes sure you will never hear a CEO talk of "making a killing" the same way again.
Costa-Gavras left his native Greece for France in his teens, and graduated in 1956 from what was then the leading French film school, IDHEC. His first feature, The Sleeping Car Murders appeared in 1965. Z, a brilliant 1969 political thriller with a cast headed by Yves Montand, Irene Pappas, Jacques Perrin, and Jean-Louis Trintignant won the Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film. Its unmasking of a Fascist assassination conspiracy was in tune with the temper of the times, but many on the Left were discomfited by his next film, The Confession, which portrayed one of the Communist show-trials held in Prague in the early '50s. This remarkably courageous film now looks suspiciously like a masterpiece. Some highlights from the ensuing 30 years of his illustrious career include State of Siege (1973) about CIA manipulation in Latin America, a series of American films including Missing, Hanna K., Betrayed and The Music Box, and a five-year stint as President of the Cinémathèque Française. His 2002 film, Amen, exposed the Catholic Church's institutional indifference to the Holocaust.