À mort l'arbitre (English title: Kill the Referee) is a 1984 French thriller film, directed by Jean-Pierre Mocky. The film won Best Original Idea at the 1984 Mystfest and was nominated for Best Film in the same event.
In the run-up to an important football match police mount an operation to prevent trouble breaking out between rival fans. The operation is led by inspector Granowski and a young trainee, Philippon. The supporters of one of the teams, the violent and racist jaunes et noirs (yellow and blacks), arrive at the stadium, led by their leader Rico. During the game, the referee, Maurice Bruno (whose journalist girlfriend, Martine, is watching from the stands, next to Rico and his gang), awards a penalty, resulting in the jaunes et noirs losing the match, and leading to fighting between the two sets of supporters.
With the defeated and angry fans waiting for Maurice after the game, the team physio manages to quietly slip he and Martine out of the stadium in a van. The couple go to the local studios of FR3 (a depiction of a real television channel: France 3) where Maurice takes part in a football discussion programme. Rico and his gang go to a pizza restaurant, where they see Maurice on the television. Hearing what Maurice is saying, they becoming increasingly agitated, shouting insults at his image on the television. Angrily, they set off to the TV studio to find him.
Maurice and his girlfriend manage to flee to a shopping centre. The gang follow them into the centre then spread out to search, using an alarm signal to keep in touch. During the search Rico accidentally kills Béru, a fellow gang member. The other gang members don't witness this so Rico blames it on Maurice. Determined to avenge their friend, Rico and the gang comb the stadium entrance for any trace of the referee. This leads them to Martine's home address.
When they arrive at Martine's home, she and Maurice are inside. The gang cut the power and set about trying to gain entrance using any means possible, with Rico attacking the door with a blowtorch. After Martine has alerted the neighbours, and managed to injure Rico's hand, and after Maurice has managed to stop two of the gang members from gaining entry, the couple escape by climbing up the outside of the building.
The assault continues. Martine's sister is attacked, but rescued by Maurice. One of the supporters dies from a fall. Some of the apartments are ransacked. Neighbours are assaulted. The pursuit continues into a supermarket, where a security guard is beaten up by the gang, then into a factory, where the referee despatches two of the supporters.
Rico catches up with the couple, in the factory, and threatens them with an axe, but Granowski arrives with other police personnel before he can carry out his threat. One of the supporters, Mayor, is armed with a gun. He shoots at Maurice, then refuses to give himself up and is killed by Granowski. Maurice and Martine flee in a car, with Rico hot on their heels in his gang's bus. After a pursuit around a large, underground, industrial excavation site (or perhaps a mining operation) Rico knocks the couple's car off a ledge with the bus. The car falls a few metres to the ground, apparently killing its two occupants. Granowski arrives at the scene moments later in his car.
With mission accomplished, Rico walks away from camera, gleefully ranting, raving, gesturing, and proffering insults to the excavation workers around him. A police car is seen catching up with him just as the film ends.Michel Serrault ... Rico
Carole Laure ... Martine Vannier
Eddy Mitchell ... Maurice Bruno
Laurent Malet ... Teddy
Claude Brosset ... Albert
Jean-Pierre Mocky ... Inspector Granowski
À mort l'arbitre wasn't as successful as hoped for in French cinemas (box office figures of 359,972 - 103,804 of those in Paris) though it did receive largely favourable reviews, with Jacques Morice in Télérama describing Michel Serrault as impeccable and chilling in his role as a belligerent proletarian.
Not until it was seen on French television by 17 million viewers in 1989, as part of a series called Dossiers de l'écran (literally "screen files": each episode consisted of the broadcast of a film dealing with a chosen theme followed by discussions with studio guests on the same theme) and after the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters, did À mort l'arbitre become a success and begin to establish itself as a cult film and one of director Jean-Pierre Mocky's classics.
In 2006 French newspaper Libération described the film as a disturbing, and still relevant, satire on the fanaticism of football supporters, and the director Jean-Pierre Mocky as one of the rare French film makers capable of making such a high-calibre, risk-taking social drama.