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Lupin, a French heist drama streaming on Netflix, has struck a chord with audiences. Netflix says the first five episodes of the miniseries are on target to reach 70 million viewers, putting it on par with another recent hit, The Queen’s Gambit.
The story follows Assane Diop (played by acclaimed French actor Omar Sy), a clever thief who uses his questionable skill set to right past wrongs. But can end results justify his misdeeds?
As a boy, Assane and his father, Babakar, left Senegal to create a better life in Paris. At first, the father and son’s circumstances improve as Babakar gets a job chauffeuring Hubert Pellegrini, one of France’s wealthiest and most powerful men.
That is, until a valuable necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette goes missing from Pellegrini’s safe. Police and Pellegrini accuse Babakar of stealing the necklace, and he goes to prison. Overwhelmed with shame, Babakar commits suicide, leaving young Assane Diop to fend for himself.
Twenty-five years later, Diop sets out to avenge his father and prove his innocence. To do that, he will need to expose the corrupt Pellegrini family, but Diop doesn’t have much moral high ground to stand on: He has spent his life perfecting the art of robbery and fraud.
He bases his thieving techniques on Maurice Leblanc’s famous books featuring the fictional Arsène Lupin, the “Gentleman Burglar.” Leblanc published his first Lupin story in 1905. The series grew to 17 novels and 39 novellas about the thief known for using his trickery for good.
Diop tells himself he’s using his gifts for good because the rich owe their money to the poor. Yet he fails to recognize how he has benefited from the prosperity of France’s upper class.
He ultimately concocts a heist he hopes will win back his estranged wife and son and clear his father’s name.
If you lay aside the morality of Diop’s thieving ways, watching how he manages to steal a multimillion-dollar necklace from the Louvre with a team of janitors is entertaining. As is how he trades places with an inmate in prison, or evades police by ordering well-done burgers with no onions.
Lupin was filmed in French, so the American Netflix version is voiced over in English. Rated TV-MA, it includes frequent bad language.
The show’s five-part conclusion, already filmed, will be available this summer. Until then, we’ll have to wonder if the show’s creators will teach Diop that crime, even aimed toward the dirty rich, does not balance the scales of justice.