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Le Cercle Rouge review

A blockbuster on its original 1970 release in France, Jean-Pierre Melville's penultimate film is a typically laconic and fatalistic thriller from the celebrated French director.

Simultaneously applauding criminal professionalism while stressing the futility of its characters' actions, it stars Alain Delon as a recently released prisoner. He teams up with Gian Maria Volonté's fugitive and Yves Montand's ex-cop, the trio planning to pull off an elaborate jewel heist. There's one hitch: the narcissistic gangsters find themselves pursued by a methodical inspector (André Bourvil), who feels a certain kinship with his prey...

Le Cercle Rouge isn't as richly characterised as Jules Dassin's Rififi, with which it shares a superb silent robbery sequence, but it is an exercise in leisurely storytelling. This is especially true in the newly restored 140-minute version, the pared-down visual style and understated performances given extra room to breathe.

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