The Crimson Rivers (2001)
Review Date: January 17, 2001
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer: Mathieu Kassovitz
Producers: Alain Goldman, Catherine Morisse
One cop is investigating a murder in which the victim was found hanging off the side of a mountain in a fetal position, with his hands mutilated and eyes removed from their sockets. Another cop is investigating the desecration of a mausoleum in the local cemetery. The detectives do not know each other but their cases are somewhat interrelated. To find out what happens next...see the movie!
And just when you thought that the serial killer genre had been beaten to death, the French grab a hold of it and spice it up with a little bit of their own "je ne sais quoi". Tres bien, mes amis! Here's a movie that takes the conventions of a typical serial killer thriller, the cops on the investigation, the gathering of the clues, the close calls, the chase, the gory details and smacks it all in the ass with an original story, a creative way of unfolding the plot line and excellent showings from its two leads. And the film doesn't hide its inspirations either, as the obvious comparisons to SE7EN are pre-empted by various homage shots to the David Fincher classic, such as the scenes in the library, the infamous door kick and an "interesting" confrontation with the killer. But the small French town locale, the snowy mountains instead of the dreary rain and the concept behind the killings, make this one a pretty fresh ride of its own. This film certainly doesn't have the same impact as the latter, nor the ultimate chilling conclusion (then again, who could ever top the ol' "head in the box" thang), but it did manage to string me along for most of its way with an engaging story and two tenacious cops. I will say that the entire story ends up being a little complicated, and I honestly didn't "get" all of its finer details, but the movie still worked for me on many other levels. In fact, it's the kind of movie that I look forward to seeing again, just so that I could decipher it all again. I also had a little bit of an issue with the ending, which was a little far-fetched in my opinion, but not enough to dismiss it as ridiculous. It's somewhat believable under the circumstances by that point, but some may see it as a stretch.
But what starts out as a routine murder investigation (think X-FILES), jam-packed with some of the goriest displays of carnage put to the screen since the aforementioned SE7EN, ultimately turns into thrilling little movie. We get a very cool chase scene between two characters literally running after one another to the point of exhaustion. We get an avalanche that will rock your world, a goofy but fun Mortal Kombat-ish fight sequence and a lot of bumpin' and jumpin' with cars. But the first half of the film is strictly investigative and the two actors, Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel, are the glue that hold the film together through that period. Reno is perfectly cast as the no-nonsense loner cop who goes by the book and Cassel works as the cooler, hipper, funnier end of the law enforcement spectrum. You believe their characters, you believe the world which they inhabit and you're constantly curious about what's gonna happen next. This film is definitely one for fans of the genre, although most will likely have to see it twice to get the exact details of the plotting, and certainly advisable to all others who enjoy a neat mystery with gory specks, set in a beautiful setting. And yup, this film is definitely not for the squeamish!
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian