Director Julien Leclercq and screenwriter Hamid Hlioua explain to us how they conceived this adaptation of the supercharged thriller of 2015, “like a 4 hour film in fact …”
There is always Sami Bouajila. From action. Dealers. And especially Robbers. But this Netflix variation – which is released today on the streaming platform – is not at all linked to the 2015 film. The director, Julien Leclercq, has completely reinvented his story with the screenwriter Hamid Hlioua, to whom we owe the very successful Cannabis (for Arte). So what brings this together Robbers from the original feature film? And why does it have nothing to do with it at the end of the day? They explain everything to us.
Robbers: the series that hits the mark on Netflix (review)
How did the idea of remaking Robbers, but in series?
Hamid Hlioua : We had this wish to expand the universe. From drawing a frame to a series that would have the DNA of Robbers. From the start, we said to ourselves that we shouldn’t try to do the same thing by delaying the film, which works very well over 1h30. We tried to tell a new story with the same promise. This triptych: tension, action, family. In that order or not. Me, I did not work on the film, but the ambition was to raise all the sliders: that the dealers become narco-traffickers, that the city of Parisian suburbs become the first gateway for cocaine in Europe, with the port of Antwerp. And behind all this action, all this spectacle, there is a family tragedy …
Kind of like what Gomorra had succeeded very well in doing … It was the model, right?
Exactly. There was this film adapted from the book, and then the series that moved away from it. We said to ourselves that we had to do the same thing with Julien, who is a unique director in France, especially when it comes to acting. He has become a real specialist.
In what Gomorra did this transposition from film to series succeed?
Julien Leclercq : the film is very authoritative. Very atmospheric. In the series, the first season is very focused on the mafia family, then we see all the layers of the Italian mafia, over several seasons. And us, that’s what we hope to do with Robbers. To arrive in dimensions which are parallel to the organized crime, with the confrontation of families, the family circles which collide: the circle of the dealers against that of the robbers, against that of the baby gang. We have different levels of banditry, but we always have the same springs, that is to say that the Achilles heel of a thug is the family. I have police buddies and each time they tell me that they are watching the family, when they want to catch someone. Because every time, it pays off!
Hamid Hlioua : And then for the viewer, it helps to identify better. We understand that it is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father. We have things in common with these thugs. We can connect.
So how do you do the same thing without doing the same thing again?
Julien Leclercq : It’s the same discipline, but it’s not the same sport! There is always a script, actors, and I just experienced it as a 4 hour film. The series is 6 episodes of 40 minutes. The film was 1h20. Suddenly, we are not telling the same thing at all. We were able to push the narrative arches. Afterwards, I don’t think there will be any confusion with the film, because it was released 5 years ago. The only hyphen is Sami Bouajila. Around him, we have new faces, new stories. We have changed dimension, scope, we go from Paris to the port of Antwerp … We are no longer in the gram or in the kilo, we are in the ton!
Was it difficult to convince Sami Bouajila to come back?
No … (silence) He’s my cinema brother! This is the fourth project we are doing together. I find him more and more beautiful, feline. I just told him: “We’re going to do Robbers again, but you’re going to play another character.“It was very short as a discussion (laughs). He trusts me. And when Hamid wrote the dialogues, you could already hear Sami say them. That is a real luxury.