The Crimson Rivers

two and a half stars out of five It’s a bit of a croque, monsieur.

It’s like the French cinematic world decided to have a go and “do Hollywood” by just throwing as much of everything as they could think of into this film. Like someone watched The Da Vinci Code and went “I know, let’s have a Nazi consipracy, some genetic engineering, a lot of stupid gendarmes – but this being France, they have wine when on duty rather than coffee/donuts – oh, and a bit of martial arts. That will be great!”. Um, not so much.
What starts off as a genuinely chilling and promising cops’n’killers film with Reno investigating murder in a rather sinister-seeming university and Cassel a couple of hundred kilometres away tracking down some grave desecrators, soon heads off in a number of rather bewildering directions. There’s the jarring broad comedy of Vincent Cassel’s Tekken-style fight (choreographed along to a console game soundtrack) with probably the world’s hairiest “skinheads”. Even if Cassel apparently came out of it with a real broken nose for his considerable efforts, the scene had no valid place in this story and broke the brooding menace completely. Then there’s the really bizarre and cheesy ending which I’ll try not to spoil here except to say that what I hoped was a suitable end point (in a Hamlet kind of way) didn’t quite turn out to be the actual finale. I should have checked – a sequel was made to this movie. It’s not on my rental list.

The acting was of the quality you’d expect from Cassel (fils et pere) and Reno. The cinematography, especially of the alpine landscapes, was generally excellently handled, although the weather seemed oddly inconsistent. The remarkably poor subtitles, obviously targeted to the US market, were massively distracting and didn’t help clarify the muddled, vague plotline. Disappointing that Kassovitz could make both the wondrous La Haine and this unsatisfying thriller-by-numbers.

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