Bank robbery in small town ends with one of the robbers being wounded. The loot from the robbery is just an asset for the even more spectacular heist. Simon, gang leader and Paris night club owner, must also deal with police comissaire Edouard Colemane, who happens to be his good friend.Written by
Dragan Antulov <email@example.com>
Not a smash finale (not that Melville knew this would be his last), but it's a must-see for genre fans
Perhaps under-looked when looking at the career of the director Jean-Pierre Melville, Un Flic (called 'Dirty Money' in the states, but is also translated as 'A Cop' on the DVD I viewed) is a crime film that goes another step with the heist genre, another (smaller) step with the cop/robber relationship, and shows Melville in (mostly) complete control over his storytelling. There are elements that seem to have evolved (or devolved, whichever you prefer) in Melville's work with the three films going in descending order- Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge, and finally this film.
As this very loose trilogy progresses (a trilogy I mark just by the presence of Alain Delon, nothing more in common aside from the genre), one may notice how Melville progresses with his stylizing, how with each film he goes a little less with characterization and dialog. With Le Samourai it's half a character study, in Le Cercle Rouge there are snippets, here it's all based on the timing of the cuts and subtle reactions. In fact, there is so much of the film that goes without dialog that Melville proves himself to be an opposite of Tarantino- instead of being clever at dialog, he's clever at the plot twist, and more importantly at making note of the 'left-out' detail, letting the audience figure it out. While one can say this is not a great place for someone not familiar with Melville's work to start, it should not be a big disappointment.
The story is one you may have seen before, only here in far more calculated circumstances. Simon (Richard Crenna, in one of his better turns) is one of four who rob a seaside bank on a rainy, foggy afternoon. In one of Melville's most polished sequences, things go good and bad for them when one of the men is fatally wounded. Edouard Coleman (Alain Delon, not his best, but always keen at being icy) is on a case that coincides with another scheme Simon has, involving a suitcase heist on a moving train during the night. Not everything goes as planned, and the presence of a mutual love interest for the two (Catherine Deneuve, practically one-sided emotionally) only complicates things further, if not on the surface. This story is told very, very simply and without anything aside from the injection of mood onto every scene.
From the opening heist on, Melville still has his chops technically-wise almost all the way through the picture. And after reading an interview with him, something about the look of the film made sense (which he said before this film was made): "My dream is to make a color film in black and white, in which there is only one tiny detail to remind us that we really are watching a film in color." One feels that is what Melville is successfully experimenting with in this film, that the methods to which he and cinematographer Walter Wottizm get the scenes are not conventional. To correspond with some of the characters, the colors are cold, or distant, corresponding almost to the unforgiving underworld of Paris- some colors seem to almost blend together, the browns going along with the grays, and the brighter ones (sometimes merely in the background) feeling diluted.
That, and the crafty editing pulled by Patricia Neny (the suspense gets laid on thick in some scenes), make up for a couple of big liabilities- that Melville, on tight a budget that he was on, used models for the exteriors of the train sequence, and some scenes don't have a 'new-wave' feeling (i.e. filmed directly on location) but rather cheaply in the studio. Not to mention that the performances from Delon and Deneuve are not really at their peak (Crenna is another matter).
Still, the most pleasurable thing about a Melville film, whether its the poetic Les Enfants Terribles or the bittersweet Bob le Flambeur, is watching the story take on a life of its own. Some things you practically wait on if you've seen Le Cercle Rouge or Le Samourai, like a wild dancing number at a nightclub (here abridged), or a detail to remind everyone who the outsiders are in this world (here portrayed by Gaby).
As another tribute to the old-style crime films of the 30's and 40's its still tightly held together, with the pacing almost impeccable. In short, it's not a masterpiece of a crime film (Melville's last before his fatal heart attack), but it remains gripping thirty plus years later, with memorable qualities.
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