Abel Davos is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and ...
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Abel Davos is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and Raymond commit a brazen robbery to get funds, killing two men; in the escape, more die. Abel arrives in Nice with the boys, calls his pals in Paris, and gets the brush-off. Reluctantly, they send a stranger, Eric Stark, to bring Abel to Paris, but he's getting the message he's on his own. Honor, friendship, and debt now count for little. What can Abel, a wanted man with two small children and only Stark as a friend, do? "Never give ground," he tells Eric, but how long can he hold to his code?Written by
A Gritty Intersection of Gansters' Jobs and Domestic Lives
"Classe tous risques" feels like the granddaddy of "The Sopranos" in mixing the criminal and the domestic, and of the buddy film to feel as contemporary as "Reservoir Dogs."
Even as these gangsters are affectionately entangled with wives, children, lovers and parents, they are coldly ruthless, and we are constantly reminded they are, no matter what warm situation we also see them in. They can tousle a kid's hair - and then shoot a threat in cold blood. The key is loyalty, and the male camaraderie is beautifully conveyed, without ethnic or class stereotypes, even as their web of past obligations and pay backs narrows into suspicion and paranoia, as the old gang is in various stages of parole, retirement, out on bail or into new, less profitable ventures. An intense accusation is of sending a stranger to perform an old escape scenario. It is a high point of emotion when a wife is told off that she's not the one the gangster is friends with, while virtually the only time we hear music on the soundtrack is when he recalls his wife.
Streetscapes in Italy and France are marvelously used, in blinding daylight to dark water and highways, from the opening set up of a pair of brazen robbers -- who are traveling with one's wife and two kids. Rugged, craggy Lino Ventura captures the screen immediately as the criminal dad. And the second thug is clearly a casually avuncular presence in their lives, as they smoothly coordinate the theft and escape, in cars, buses, on boats and motorcycles, in easy tandem. This is not the cliché crusty old guy softened with the big-eyed orphan; these are their jobs and their families and they intersect in horrific ways.
The film pulls no punches in unexpectedly killing off characters, directly and as collateral damage, and challenging our sympathy for them, right through to the unsentimental end, which is probably why there was never an American remake.
It seems so fresh that it's not until Jean-Paul Belmondo enters almost a third of the way into the film, looking so insouciant as a young punk, that one realizes that this is from 1960. Sultry Sandra Milo has smart and terrific chemistry with him, from an ambulance to an elevator to a hospital bed.
While the Film Forum was showing a new 35 mm print with newly translated subtitles, it was not pristine. The program notes explained that the title refers to a kind of insurance policy and is pun on "tourist class."
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