Farès is a small-time drug dealer in France, with little enthusiasm to continue. He’s been trying to become a legitimate businessman, with the idea of setting up a company exporting freeze pops to North Africa. His chance has finally come, and he’s saved up 80,000 Euros for the opportunity… 80,000 Euros that have been gambled away by his unstable criminal Mother. The only way to get that amount of money again quickly is to take delivery of a large shipment of marijuana in Spain on behalf of his boss. Unfortunately, things spin out of control, and Farès has to contend with idiot assistants, a friend who can’t drag himself away from YouTube videos about the Illuminati, thieving Scotsmen, and his Mother. Again.
Karim Leklou plays Farès with a constantly resigned air, knowing that whatever happens, it will be all the worse for him. There are very few people in the film that do not seem caricatures in some way, from Farès’s addled boss to his selfish and impulsive mother. The film is full of everyone trying to con and cheat each other, even if it gets no further than just fantasising about it. We shouldn’t expect anything else, because most of the cast are criminals, and there is no honour amongst thieves. Farès’s dream of having his own import business looks ridiculously bland as an ambition, until you realise that it represents everything that he hasn’t got: stability, predictability and control over his own life. The only other halfway-sane friend he has is Lamya, the woman he has a crush on, and we’re never certain how far he can trust her.
Though Farès was born into a criminal family, the style of the film constantly points out that he doesn’t belong there. Despite being the film’s protagonist, he is constantly in danger of disappearing in plain sight when the audience’s attention is dragged to the people around him. This isn’t surprising in the case of his Mother, because she’s played by Isabelle Adjani in a hairstyle that could eat the Eiffel Tower, but there are very few moments when Farès does not look like ‘the normal one’. Farès is so ordinary that when he takes his shirt off we discover he has a bit of a stomach – like most of us, and unlike the vast majority of heroes in Hollywood blockbusters.
The film makers put a great amount of care into the visual feel of the film in general. The film’s title is a reference to Scarface, and in particular the Brian de Palma remake. The two films are far more related in terms of their look than their content. Scarface was all about conspicuous consumption, with the emphasis on conspicuous (and often tacky). The characters in The World is Yours typically don’t have the money for much consumption, but they still want to be conspicuous (and often tacky). A large part of the film is set in a Spanish town on the coast line that has nightlife from hell and the drunken, violent British tourists to go along with it. It’s a good setting for the loud and selfish crooks surrounding Farès. Ironically, he’s the character in the film that has the least in common with Scarface’s protagonist, Tony Montana. His boss, on the other hand, acts like a pound-shop version of Montana, and it’s just as ludicrous as it sounds.
It’s when you look at the film’s comedy that The World is Yours hits a stumbling block. Most of the jokes come from the caricatures and Farès’s reaction to them as the film’s straight man, which means that they are constantly fighting for the audience’s attention. Despite being the protagonist, Farès gives the surprising impression of being too passive when he’s actually very active, simply because he’s typically so quiet compared to everyone else. More importantly, if you don’t like the surrounding characters, you won’t like the jokes. I didn’t laugh once, although I should add that I seem to be in the minority. It’s an unhappy minority, though, because if you don’t laugh at the jokes, you won’t care about the characters either, and it’s impossible to escape them. The best part of the film is the climax, but that’s because the emphasis on the characters is replaced by an emphasis on the plot, as Farès triggers his grand plan to get out of trouble. It’s well-constructed and surprisingly brutal for such a mild protagonist, but it comes too late to make up for the rest of the film.
As I said, though, other critics have loved The World is Yours. So I can only end by saying that you should watch out if you’re not laughing within the first five minutes, because it means that you won’t find the rest of it funny either. In which case, there’s little reason to keep watching.