The Crimson Rivers
             
             Let's get something settled right off the bat: This is not a film for
     the squeamish. From its opening sequence that owes a great deal to
     David Lynch's
Blue Velvet through to the final scenes, The Crimson Rivers
     is filled with disturbing images. The opening sequence shows bugs crawling
     over a landscape that turns out to be a decaying body abandoned in a
     woodsy region. Actor-director Matthieu Kassovitz ratchets up the tension and
     never lets go as he tells separate stories of two police detectives whose
     investigations eventually overlap. What might have been just a routine police
     procedural complete with serial killer (whose M.O. calls to mind that of the
     murderer in David Fincher's
Se7en), becomes instead an engrossing and
     fascinating piece. Only near the end as the cops are closing in does the movie
     veer slightly off-track into Hollywood clichés.

             Jean Reno is Pierre Niemans, a well-known and respected criminologist
     called in to investigate gruesome torture (the man was trussed up before his
     hands were hacked off and his eyes gouged out) of the victim found in the
     opening scene. The murder occurred in a somewhat provincial university town
     where the townsfolk tend to intermarry. Soon, other bodies are found and it
     becomes clear that each death is the handiwork of a serial killer.

             Concurrent to Niemans' case, in a nearby town Max Kerkerian (Vincent
     Cassel) is investigating the desecration of a graveyard. His investigation
     turns up odd details that involve the death of a young girl some 20 years
     earlier. The deeper he digs, the more mysterious the case becomes. Kerkerian
     even visits the dead child's mother (Dominique Sanda in an effective cameo),
     who has since entered a religious order and is a cloistered nun.

             Eventually, the two detectives converge on a suspect, and their
     twin stories merge -- they have each been approaching the same case but
     from different ends. To reveal any more of the plot would be unwise and
     unfair.

             Kassovitz has clearly studied Lynch and Fincher well, and his handling
     of the material pushes the envelope while remaining taut. (He also scripted.)
     It's only when he devolves into a Hollywood-style car chase and shoot out
     and attempts a botched romantic subplot that he stumbles. The two leads,
     Reno and Cassel, perfectly complement one another while the other
     performances hover in the adequate range. Special mention has to be made
     of Bruno Coulais' atmospheric score and Thierry Arbogast's superior
     camerawork.

            
 The Crimson Rivers tries to be thought-provoking and controversial.
     After a strong start, though, it doesn't quite make it to the finish line. Still,
     it's a ride worth taking to get there.



                                           Rating:        B-
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.