Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
"Le cercle rouge" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  20 October 1970 (France)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 14,081 users   Metascore: 91/100
Reviews: 50 user | 77 critic | 19 from Metacritic.com

After leaving prison, master thief Corey crosses paths with a notorious escapee and an alcoholic former policeman. The trio proceed to plot an elaborate heist.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Le Commissaire Mattei (as André Bourvil)
Vogel (as Gian-Maria Volonte)
Le Receleur
Paul Amiot ...
Pierre Collet ...
Le Gardien de prison
André Ekyan ...
Jean-Pierre Posier ...
L'assistant de Mattei
François Périer ...
Santi (as François Perier)
Yves Arcanel ...
Le juge d'instruction
René Berthier ...
Le directeur de la P.J.
Jean-Marc Boris ...
Le fils Santi
Jean Champion ...
Le garde-barrière
Yvan Chiffre ...
Un policier


On the eve of his release after five years imprisoned, the thief Corey is contacted by one guard of the prison that offers him a jewelry heist. However Corey seeks out his former boss Rico and steals money from him. Rico sends two gangsters to hunt Corey down and retrieve the stolen amount. Meanwhile the criminal Vogel is transported by train by the Police Officer Mattei and succeeds to escape. Corey drives from Marseille to Paris and Vogel hides in the trunk of his car. Corey finds him but does not object to ride Vogel to Paris hidden in the trunk. When the gangsters sent by Rico cut in Corey's car, Vogel saves him from the criminals, but Corey loses the money. Without money, Corey decides to heist the jewelry with Vogel and invites the former police detective Jansen to team-up with them. The trio executes a perfect heist but Rico is seeking revenge and Mattei is an unethical but efficient police officer capable to use any means to resolve the case. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Red Circle is a powerful in-depth study of the French Underworld See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 October 1970 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Le Cercle Rouge  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$14,843 (USA) (10 January 2003)


$372,229 (USA) (12 September 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Captain Mattei, the role played by Bourvil, was originally offered to Lino Ventura; the role of Jansen, played by Yves Montand, was originally offered to Paul Meurisse; and Jean-Paul Belmondo was originally planned to play the role of Vogel ultimately played by Gian Maria Volonté. See more »


There's a cut as Commissaire Mattei turns on the lamp in his apartment. The cat beside the green chair disappears and the cat in it switches from facing sideways to facing the camera. See more »


Le chef de la police: And don't forget: All guilty.
Le Commissaire Mattei: Even policemen?
Le chef de la police: All men, Mr. Mattei
See more »


Referenced in Il trucido e lo sbirro (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

The circle
19 February 2006 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

Not having seen this film in quite some time, we caught with it not long ago in the nicely transferred Criterion DVD. "Le cercle rouge" is a film that owes a lot to other movies, as it keeps reminding us about "Rififi", "The Asphalt Jungle", among others, because they all deal with capers that take center stage in the movie and reproduce it in great detail. Unfortunately, one knows that old adage that crime does not pay, and from the start, these men involved in it are doomed from the onset.

Jean-Pierre Melville was a director of few words. He didn't fill his pictures with a lot of dialog, as it's the case here. Yet, for not being "talky", they had a style of their own as proved with "Le Dolous", "Le Samurai", and his masterpiece, "Bob le flambeur", among others. Mr. Melville had a sense of style that comes across in everything he did. In this film, working with his cinematographer, Henri Decae, he takes us along for a ride through the streets of Paris that shows the vibrant city mainly at night and the bleak winter in France. The score is by Eric Demarsan that emphasizes a jazzy music that accompanies most of the action.

Although the film shows Alain Delon, as Corey, at the center of the action, it is however, the smart inspector Mattei who is the real hero of the movie. As played by the great Bourvil, he is a man that shows a lot of patience because he has figured from the beginning how to catch Vogel, and in the process he gets involved in the investigation of the jewel heist in which he knows the escaped man he is tailing looms large behind it. Bourvil gives an enormously satisfying performance as Mattei showing equal parts of determination and tenderness, as it's the case with the three cats he adores.

Alain Delon always responded with interesting performances his appearances in Mellville's pictures. In here he is Corey, the man who is first seen leaving prison and promising himself he won't go back, but he cannot pass a good thing when he decides to go ahead and participate in the robbery. His association with Vogel and Jansen, pays off in the way they get the job done, but it will also prove a mistake in the way they will not be able to dispose of the loot as the fence they have relied on has a change of heart.

Gian Maria Volonte and Yves Montand are seen as Vogel and Jansen, respectively. They were excellent actors who blend well in the action of the film. Both actors were at their best moment when they took the roles in the film and it shows. Mr. Montand has the more complex character to play as we witness him in his first moment in front of the camera as a man with many demons inside his head.

Jean-Pierre Mellville got wonderful results from his cast and crew in a film, that although feels a bit longer, but still succeeds in showing his style in one of the most memorable pictures from the director.

39 of 47 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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