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Charles (Jean Gabin), a sixtyish career criminal fresh out of jail, rejects his wife's plan for a quiet life of bourgeois respectability. He enlists a former cellmate, Francis (Alain Delon), to assist him in pulling off one final score, a carefully planned assault on the vault of a Cannes casino. Bad luck and Francis's lack of professionalism set the caper maddeningly askew, and the stolen cash resurfaces in an unexpected manner. Written by
Michael Krugman <email@example.com>
I don't know why this movie is so little-celebrated -- it's terrific. It's so assured. It brings in the worn and smooth Jean Gabin for his last job (of course), and through some exchanges of witty banter gives us some time to get to know him and his wife before introducing his former cellmate, Alain Delon, as the leather-jacketed toughie. They're both excellent here, especially Gabin, who's polite but still certainly in control. He gives a wryness, like a fat Orson Welles, to his performance. The hot-tempered Delon gives a jolt of vitality to the picture. The entire movie is nice and slow, perfectly glamorous, the best of swinging, jazzy '60s cool. In a conventional movie, when Delon is told to seduce a ballerina so he and Gabin can gain a backstage pass to the theater, the courting would have ended with him buying her a drink. But in this film, it lasts for a good half an hour. And it's never boring. Those nice, long sequences explain everything fully. Not the plot, per se, but elements of the plot -- Delon's seducing of the dancer (which he mucks up more than once); Delon's brother-in-law, who in a normal movie would have been nothing but a side character, here is fully-fleshed out; Gabin's wife. And that long, languorous rhythm is what makes the major, lengthy set piece so memorable -- it's where Delon slinks around, slipping up occasionally, climbing up stairs, crawling through a ventilation shaft, and hiding in an elevator (very "Mission: Impossible"), eventually leading to the robbery. And it has one of the best endings to any caper movie that I've seen. 9/10
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