Les Rivières Pourpres [The Crimson Rivers] (2000)

(In theaters, July 2001) The first few moments of the film give the tone to this dark, stylish thriller, as we’re shown long close-ups of a putrefying human corpse. It eases up after that, but it’s a fairly good start to a rather interesting film, an investigation of a murder that eventually comes to uncover something else entirely. That “something else” isn’t really all that impressive (I, for one, could have enjoyed a secret cloning conspiracy by extraterrestrials, but alas, no such thing here) but don’t worry; aside from the gratuitously surprising finale, the film will hold up your interest for its full duration. Jean Reno is still as cool as ever, though here he looks particularly hideous. Young Vincent Cassel is almost as good as a hot-headed policeman with a talent for kung-fu. (Leading up to a jarringly atonal fight scene that is quite good in itself, but doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film) The ending is highly problematic, with a big surprise that really isn’t necessary, and does little to actually explain the events of the film. (Re-run the story in your head after seeing it, and you’ll understand your lack of understanding. Begin with the mother’s speech and motivations.) In any case, the visual style, the varied action sequences and the overall tone of the film should be enough to recommend. Just don’t expect a tightly-plotted film.

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