So there is a lot of conflicting concepts and ideas going on with how this movie is both advertised as well as some of the core concepts of the movie. Most of the information I had gotten about Vidocq (for some reason, most US releases I have seen around have renamed it Dark Portals... I've seen it and still don't understand that) beforehand had been that it's a very good Steampunk movie, something I haven't really seen done well to date. Then I find out that Eugène François Vidocq was a real person and probable inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. So I've already got a little bit of cognitive dissonance going into this movie and I haven't even seen frame one yet.
So the opening of this movie gives us Gérard Depardieu as the titular character stalking someone through a dark, crowded, fiery place leading to a quick fight with a Mirror Masked individual which ends with Vidocq's apparent death. End of movie I guess. But no, a young man claiming to be Vidocq's biographer arrives and begins investigating Vidocq's murder to avenge him and so we get to watch as the intrepid reporter tracks Vidocq's movements, followed by flashbacks to Vidocq's movements tracking down the nebulous and sinister Alchemist. And in a shocking twist that no one saw coming, at least you wouldn't have seen it coming if you weren't paying any attention whatsoever, Vidocq did not die in the fire hole he fell into at the beginning of the film and our intrepid reporter is, in fact, our nefarious villain. Oooooh. Big mirror fight and the villain is stabbed with a big glass shard, thrown out a window to fall some ridiculous height into the river below to die... or does he?
So this isn't quite as bad as it sounds. Sure the overall structure of the story is pretty standard and there's no real surprise to the ending whatsoever, but there are some interesting character tweaks and villainous foibles which are kind of interesting and stupid at the same time. Like the villains mask. Stylewise it's an absolute win, but then they go and make it a magic mirror mask that sucks people's souls in when they die and it gets a little ridiculous. And Gérard Depardieu. The character of Vidocq is actually kind of interesting and I don't think I've seen a grumpy, bitter Depardieu before and I think if they had made this more of a Depardieu centric movie it might have possibly been better for it. But then we see them try and film an action sequence with an easily 300+ lb. actor and his not so robust fight double and it's just a little silly.
But the one thing that annoyed me the most was the director Pitof. Pitof served as the visual effects supervisor for most of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's best films (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children) and that comes through loud and clear with the way that this movie looks and feels. It viscerally dirty but at the same time you get these fantastic and otherworldly panorama shots and the two blend from one scene to the next so seamlessly that it's like your visual cortex is relaxing on ocean waves. And then we see the camera work and direction for any scene that requires tension or even a little bit of action and you are subjected to hyper-close-ups that are disorienting and impossible to follow sucking any drama that those scenes were supposed to instill. Overall, it's interesting but I'd love to see another director tackle the character.