A Prophet 

Agreeing at the insistence of a Corsican mob boss to suck and then slash a fellow inmate, newly jailed Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) — poor, illiterate, a "dirty Arab" in the prison's racist pecking order — gets what's coming to him, but in a good way. Indeed, crime pays in A Prophet, the Gallic gangster movie that's the most widely valued French underworld thriller since the reign of tough-guy auteur Jean-Pierre Melville in the 1960s. Does director Jacques Audiard deserve his new status as a made man? Sold to the art-house market as the "French Scorsese," Audiard does know his genre. A Prophet, the director has said, is the "anti-Scarface." Thus jittery El Djebena carves up a snitch in the first reel and goes out stylishly in the last. In between, he's incrementally rewarded by César Luciani (Niels Arestrup), the French jailhouse don Corleone. Whatever suspense A Prophet musters in its protracted running time involves our predictable unease about how far the student may be willing to go for — or against — the master. Audiard's shrewdly determined redemption conceit requires his multiethnic gang war to resolve into some marketable "universal" truths. As Tony Montana would say, for the price of a movie ticket, the world is yours.

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