Crimson Rivers (Les Rivières Pourpres)
Dir: Mathieu Kassovitz
Star: Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel, Nadia Farès
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2000
Format: DVD R2

A body is discovered in the mountains above a remote university town. To assist the local force super cop Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) is bought in to help. Meanwhile a hundred kilometres away a young streetwise cop Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel) is investigating the desecration of the grave of a young girl killed in a car accident. It slowly becomes apparent that the two cops are working on the same case. A case where a string of horrific murders provide a trail to some very dark secrets.

Over the last couple of years there has been a spate of killer \ cop thrillers, some have been very good like Insomnia others have been a little disappointing like Hannibal. This film is different coming as it does from France and by treating its audience with a great deal of respect for their intelligence. This turms out to mean an interesting mix of stunning locations and a complicated unguessable plot. What's more it breaks the rules for a buddy buddy cop film by keeping the main characters apart for over half the film. An interesting and innovative mix indeed.

The first thing you notice in the film (past the unnecessarily gruesome credits) is a fantastic aerial shot as it follows a car through some stunningly beautiful mountainous countryside. This is just a for taste of some brilliant cinematography. Great use has been made of locations and the mountainous backdrop to frame some loverly images. Full credit must be given to Mathieu Kassovitz for this directorial tour de force. Highlights include the decent of the glacier as the camera pans over the edge and then descends, and the running track chase (reminiscent of the chase in Fort Apache the Bronx). This is one of the best looking and well shot films you will see.

The films second strength is in the script. How often in thrillers are we presented with obvious suspects, spoon fed clues, and led by the nose to the conclusion that could be guessed in the first ten minutes. Well not here. Initially the two cops cases seem completely separate, and because you only get to see what they see no link becomes obvious for a very long time. They have no suspects, only the clues, and trust me it is very difficult to guess what they mean. This is a refreshing change, at last a film with no main psychopath taking over the precedes and generally bringing the proceedings down in to the realms of unrealistic farce (Hannibal Lector films please note). At last a film which lets you try and figure things out rather than give it to you on a platter. Add to this some sharp one liners and a fair amount of action and we have a intelligent film which is watchable and never boring.

Cast wise at last we have a return to form for Jean Reno. After a number of bad career choices in America (Rollerball, Just Visiting anyone), he has at last returned to the sort of film he excels in. This sort of gruff and tough role is just made for him. Vincent Cassel is a long time collaborator with Mathieu Kassovitz and beyond that he is a versatile and fine actor. In the first half of the film both actors are great individually, but when they mix it is superb. This is as good a cop partnership as you will see, and has two top actors at the top of their game.

There of course is a downside and here it tends to come from ending of the complicated script. It is a great story but at the end it does rather leave a number of major threads untied. This is both a little confusing and annoying. Repeated viewings do help, but the end of the film seems to rather unwisely rely on spectacle rather than exposition. How big a problem this is depends on how much attention you put into the film, the more casual viewer may not get it. The only other gripe is the unfortunately unavoidable continuity errors that have crept in due to snow (the university has no snow at the front one minute and massive drifts behind it the next). this is not a big problem and its just one of those things.

Crimson Rivers is an excellent thriller, with a unusually complex and innovative script. A quality central cast give top range performances, and the direction is slick and expertly handled. Added to this we have the stunning locations and amazing cinematography. All of these things come together to make a potentially must see film. The only things stopping it are the scripts inability to tie up all of the threads, and the unfortunate continuity. Overall though this is a film I can seriously recommend.


Niemans: I work alone.
Max Kerkerian: So do I.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic A great picture that shows of the brilliant scenary well.
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Choice of orginal French or English Dub (with original cast). Both are supperb, with some brilliant surround effects (just check out the rain).
Features The Main Feature
Director and Cast Commentary (subtitled)
Isolated Score with Composer Commentary (subtitled)
Features Commentary track
12 Featurettes Including: "Book To Feature Comparison", "The Art Of Crimson Rivers" and "Recording The Music" and Storyboard comparisons: "The Avalanche", "The Corpse", "The Fight" and "The Pursuit"
Cast and Crew Bios
Verdict This is impressive indeed for a foriegn language film. The picture and sound are of an outstanding quality (especially the awesome soundtrack). Add to this a good selection of extras and this is a very attractive disc set.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home