Laced with action and thrilling crime plots, Netflix’s French show ‘Blood Coast,’ essays a classic story of cops vs. criminals set in scenic Marseille, a city saturated with illicit activities. Originally titled ‘Pax Massilia,’ which loosely translates to Peace in Marseille, the show fittingly delves into the reality behind what it takes for Marseillais cops to keep the city from drowning under the threat of drug gang violence. Primarily focusing on a particular drug lord’s rise in the city, the story follows an unconventional Police Captain and his team who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their city safe. However, how much reality is behind the show’s depiction of violent Marseille, its dangerous streets, and the cops’ experiences?
Blood Coast: A Story About Crime In Marseille
‘Blood Coast’ is not based on a true story. The show is entirely a work of fiction crafted by Kamel Guemra and his creative team to bring a gripping narrative wrapped in an action-crime thriller. As such, most of the incidents and characters explored within the show are purely fictional in nature and serve the sole purpose of moving the narrative along. Yet, in order to bring a credible story about crime that would capture the audience’s attention, the show inevitably had to have some basis in real life.
For the most part, ‘Blood Coast,’ a cop show, focuses on the city of Marseille by delving into its criminal underbelly. While none of the criminal storylines depicted within the show are directly connected to a specific true event, it calls for a focus on the city’s real-life history with crime. Over the years, Marseille has gained a bit of a reputation for its violence, with news reports often citing it as the second most dangerous city in all of Europe.
Although a lot of it boils down to cliches, which pigeonholes the city for its criminal background, a general amplified criminality certainly seems to follow Marseille around. In fact, according to France24, in the past year of 2023, the city saw a rise in homicide rates, with 36 people losing their lives as a direct result of gang wars within the first eight months of the year. Consequently, Marseille’s state prosecutor, Dominique Lauren, even described the situation as a “bloodbath.”
Therefore, the show definitely draws from reality a bit in that aspect. Nevertheless, it remains crucial to remember that as a cop show, the story is bound to highlight the dangers of the city to an extended degree. For the same reason, the show also attempts to show the other side of Marseille to paint as authentic a picture as possible. Olivier Marchal, who directed a majority of the episodes for the show, has been a Marseillais for a while now and prefers to spend his time in the city outside of work.
Thus, Marchal was able to truly capture the city’s essence and bring it to life on the screen by incorporating his lived experiences into the show’s more subtle moments. Likewise, the director was also interested in adding a more well-rounded characterization to his characters by highlighting their psychological struggles. Therefore, after Guemra’s draft of the episodes, Marchal revisited the script with screenwriter Edgar Marie and reworked it up until shooting day on the set.
As such, Marchal’s particular experience in telling authentic yet engaging cop stories helped him craft the narrative within ‘Blood Coast.’ Viewers may recognize the director’s work through other French movies, such as the 2020 film ‘Rogue City’ or 2022’s ‘Overdose.’ Still, despite his heavy experience in the genre of action-filled, dangerous cop stories, Marchal also wanted to bring a twist to the tale and introduce new elements to his audience.
Ultimately, as entertaining as the narrative within ‘Blood Coast’ remains, it is only a fictional story made up of fictional elements. Outside of its authentic portrayal of Marseille, which also gets muddled under genre conventions at times, the show has little to no basis in real-life people or events.
Read More: Blood Coast: Where is the Netflix Show Shot?