After a shaky first heist, a group of thieves plan an even more elaborate and risky second heist.After a shaky first heist, a group of thieves plan an even more elaborate and risky second heist.After a shaky first heist, a group of thieves plan an even more elaborate and risky second heist.
Plenty hold that master French crime filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville had reached his pinnacle long before this, his last film, and he definitely did. But Un Flic plays exquisitely with all his signature muteness, austere faces and bleak colors. Cinematographer Walter Wottitz eschews gloomy soliloquies and melodramatic dialogue for his steely color treatment. What few colors that do breeze in appear to exhale from the poignant grays. The characters barely speak, most conspicuously during the movie's twenty-minute intrepid train robbery sequence in which the robber is dropped onto a moving train via helicopter, performs the robbery and gets back on. The film spotlights two strikingly constructed heists, the other one in a bank. The first is the hold-up of an isolated Riviera small-town seacoast bank. Melville painstakingly films the unlawful act, and how it goes awry when a ballsy teller declines to be robbed without a fight.
Melville's moody, idiosyncratic swan song is an ascetic inkling of the young though despondent, headstrong Paris police chief played by a volatile, willful Alain Delon, who is going after bank robbers and a drug-smuggling ring among his everyday quota of crimes to which he has grown apathetic. But these two crimes, as he discovers later on, are link and affect his personal life. The gang leader is indeed his counterpart, Richard Crenna, an underhanded nightclub owner he became acquainted with while having a prevalent liaison with his coldly gorgeous wife Catherine Deneuve. She shows no fervor for either of her lovers, the impervious ice queen. Crenna plays the civil competitor with played by Crenna with the chivalrous air of a frequenter of coffee shops and theatres. Deneuve plays her character as someone not interested in dividing her lovers by good and bad, but by charming or tedious. And Delon remains Melville's trademark tenacious individualist.
It's a dismally ambient film noir with Melville linking his characters to the quiet panorama around them, as it is set in a neon-lit moist city outlook of despairing crooks who are getting old and need one last score to go out with dignity. Police brutality is understood casually as a truth of life, as are double-crosses among thieves. The film is shot in minimalist style, with the dialogue and the sets being scant, but not rawboned. Melville was a man of simple tastes, but idealistic, zealous, philosophical tastes at that. Un Flic, or Dirty Money, held my engrossment all through with a feeling of a dreamlike serenity before the brewing outburst.
- Oct 10, 2009