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Max is a Paris detective, aloof, independently wealthy, and frustrated by gangs of robbers whom he cannot catch. To re-establish his stature and save face, he decides to inveigle a group of petty thieves (led by an old acquaintance) to rob a bank. A reluctant captain provides Max intelligence and Max starts spending evenings with Lilly, a prostitute who's the girlfriend of the group's leader. He poses as a rich banker with money to burn and encourages Lilly to think about her future. He hints at a payroll that comes through his bank. The plot works, the petty thieves think they're ready for a big score, and the cops are in place. What could go wrong with Max's cold plan? Who's entrapped? Written by
Max (Michel Piccoli) was once a judge but resigned, frustrated by letting guilty perps go due to lack of evidence. He joins the Paris Police Force and becomes a detective. Same thing happens - he can't arrest guilty mobsters for the same reason. As this obsession begins to consume him, he devises a plan, which amounts to a sting operation. He hopes this will restore some respect for truth, justice and the French way.
He befriends a prostitute who is also the girlfriend of a small time hood, who was once a childhood friend. Complications arise (you knew that, didn't you?), as the girl is attractive and comes with a heart. Max is stoic as well as obsessed and tries hard not to let sentiment interfere with his plan.
The film's pacing is uneven and involves a great deal of table-setting, so the film takes a while to get going. All the action takes place in the last 20 minutes - be ready to check your watch several times. But the ending is worth the wait, and that's as far as I can go without giving it away. Piccoli gives a thoughtful performance as a man driven by his conception of justice. He is tall and lean and is a commanding presence throughout. Romy Schneider as the bimbo gives what must be her best performance after years of fluff and junk.
This was apparently the film's US premiere as it was not shown here in its initial release. It played at Lincoln Center, NYC, 8/12.
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