We’ve always had a constant flow of pretty white guys in the movies doing lovably bad stuff.

Now we’ve got another pretty face, this time a startling black actor, who has been around for a decade or two, hiding in plain sight. He suddenly became a French star after his scene-stealing performance in “The Intouchables” a hit film about a wealthy quadriplegic (François Cluzet) who hires an unruly young man, just out of prison, simply to lift him in and out of his chair, but who becomes much more than just a helping hand.

Now, Omar Sy, the first black performer to win a César Award for Best Actor, has emerged in this year’s best action adventure, “Lupin.”

“Lupin” is a French mystery comedy web television series created by George Kay and François Uzan that premiered on Netflix on Jan. 8.

The facts:

Some background here: Maurice LeBlanc was the French writer and reporter known as the creator of Arsene Lupin, a French gentleman-thief turned detective, who filled more than 60 detective adventures.

Such a character has been duplicated in hundreds of films and television shows since LeBlanc created him in 1910.

Think Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief” or Steve McQueen in “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

We first meet Assane Diop as a teenager, the only child of Babakar Diop (Fargass Assande) an educated but struggling immigrant from Senegal, who has come to France to seek a better life for his child, and has secured a job as chauffeur for a wealthy lout, Hubert Pellegrini (Herve Pierre). When Assane’s father is framed for stealing a world famous diamond necklace from Pellegrini, he is sent to prison.

Facing the overwhelming odds against him, he hangs himself in his cell, leaving nothing to his son but a book, given him from the wife of his accuser. It is the tale of Arsene Lupin, the “Gentleman Thief.”

Now Assane, a teenager tossed to the streets, is an orphan and, inspired by the book, grows up learning and developing the tricks of the trade drawn from Arsene Lupin’s book.

The pilot sets Assane on a journey to get revenge on the Pellegrini family, using his charisma and mastery of thievery, subterfuge, and disguise to establish his place in the sun.

And what a place it becomes.

We watch an auction in Paris, where lo and behold, the once purloined necklace is for sale.

The rest is fast and furious, full of surprises and pitfalls, and as they say in the world of “Lupin,” a thrill a minute.

Omar Sy centers himself in this series and once there, he holds our attention.

FYI: The series holds a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 100% .  A favored cliche in Hollywood is, as always, “a star is born.”

 

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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