Former taxi driver, sports journalist and all-round 'character' Albert Simonin, wrote his Max le Menteur trilogy in the mid-1950's. All three were filmed but the vagaries of film-making and different directors combined to make each film a separate entity. The only connecting thread between the trio is the splendid dialogue of Michel Audiard.
By far the best is of course 'Touchez-pas au Grisbi' featuring Jean Gabin as Max. He turns up again in 'Le Cave se rebiffe' seven years later as a counterfieter named Ferdinand. Two years on we have 'Les Tontons Flingueurs' in which the character has morphed into Fernand and is played by the only actor capable at the time of filling Gabin's shoes, namely Lino Ventura.
'Grisbi' is pure Film Noir whilst 'Le Cave' is a gentle comedy. 'Flingueurs' is made in the same spirit as 'Le Cave' but is anything but gentle! The title literally translates as 'Gun-toting Uncles' which is not exactly 'catchy' but far stronger than the insipid alternative 'Crooks in Clover' which is more appropriate to something made by Ealing Studios.
In terms of the mise-en-scene by Georges Lautner the latter is probably the weakest of the three but the characters, the 'slang' and some hilariously comic scenes have made this a cult film in France.
To call the characters 'colourful' would hardly do them justice. Fernand's 'business associates' are all simply frightful and utterly devoid of redeeming features but are portrayed as a bunch of clowns and losers, especially the Paul Volfoni of Bernard Blier who suffers from delusions of adequacy. Even the teenage daughter and her composer boyfriend are terminally irritating.
The best scene and ironically the one that Audiard liked the least, is where the gangsters bond and try to hold an intelligible conversation whilst imbibing a disgusting alcoholic brew described as 'a mans drink'. Another highlight is the bullet-dodging scene involving Fernand and the half-deaf president of the International Monetary Fund!
Blier is as always good value and Ventura's strong presence holds the film together. They both prove that Comedy is most effective when played straight.
Liberties have been taken with the original and the mix of Noir/Gangster/Comedy genres is not to everyones taste but the sheer entertainment value of this bizarre, surreal film is undeniable.