"L'Addition," a muddy French thriller that has absolutely nothing to do with "Frenzy" or "Blood Simple" (the two films mentioned in its advertisements), is a sort of nightmare about the Georgetown Safeway. Bruno (Richard Berry) tries to pick up Patty (Victoria Abril) somewhere between dairy products and cat food; she gets caught shoplifting, he comes to her aid, and a scuffle with the gendarmerie lands him in jail.

This guy Bruno -- I'll tell ya, he's a magnet for trouble. In jail, he blunders into an escape attempt that ends up crippling a prison guard, Lorca (Richard Bohringer). Bruno's innocent, but Lorca blames him anyway. A search of the cells reveals a cache of drugs belonging to a fellow inmate, Jose (Farid Chopel); Bruno didn't squeal, but Jose blames him anyway. They fight, Bruno holds out a pointed object in self-defense, the guards run Jose into it, skewering him.

I'd tell you who gets blamed, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.

This is the kind of naturalistic prison drama that was done centuries ago, and better, in movies such as "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang." The fates seem arbitrary in "L'Addition," but instead of grounding that arbitrariness in some social vision, director Denis Amar does everything to undercut the reality of the film. This may be something altogether new in penal architecture, a prison with a proscenium arch: Each scene ends with a theatrical fade-out, the score comes courtesy of an early-'70s TV detective show; with its thick oranges, the movie seems to have been shot through a pumpkin.