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In the 19th century Pyrénées, a stagecoach stops for the night at an isolated inn run by a couple of murderous thieves. The husband wants to kill and rob them all, but one of them is a priest whom the wife refuses to see harmed.
Other reviewers have noticed the similarities between C$SH and OCEANS ELEVEN (2001) or OCEANS TWELVE (2004). To this list we might add some caper films of the Sixties, including the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN (1960) or Ronald Neame's GAMBIT (1966) and Peter Collinson's THE Italian JOB (1969).
All the familiar elements are here: exotic locations in Monaco as well as the south of France; sun-kissed beaches and luxury hotels; the deep azure blue of the Mediterranean; iconic cars; and a stellar cast clearly enjoying themselves with Éric Besnard's script.
The plot is basically irrelevant - suffice to say that small time conman Cash (Jean Dujardin) pits his wits against Mr. Big Maxime - Dubreuil (Jean Reno). It seems that Cash's endeavors are doomed to fail, as Maxime not only has power but wealth and guile as well. Cash teams up with enthusiastic police officer Julia (Valeria Golino), whose understanding of the difference between right and wrong appears tenuous at best, and together they set about trying to place a sting on Maxime. The action comes to a climax at a luxury seaside hotel, with the protagonists fighting to secure an attaché case full of expensive and unregistered diamonds.
Also involved in the gallimaufry are Ciarán Hinds and Joe Sheridan as a pair of native English speakers involved with the French police force; their grasp of both languages is highly competent - far more so than their professional abilities.
The effect of watching C$SH is rather like playing with a series of Chinese boxes; nothing is quite what it seems. The 'good' characters turn out to be corrupt' the 'bad' characters are not quite as black-hearted as we might first assume. But director Éric Besnard isn't much interested in morality; he invites us to admire the ingenuity of the various cons instituted by the various characters. This is a world where only the fittest - and the most astute - survive.
A highly enjoyable film, with a series of ingenious shot-structures (especially the use of split-screen techniques) recalling those days of the "Swinging Sixties" when everyone seemed so much more carefree than they do today.
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