Take the writer/director of the scorching La Haine, get him to adapt a grisly crime novel (Jean-Christophe Grangé's Les Rivières Pourpres), and then pair two of France's biggest export stars, Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel as the leads. Movie-logic dictates that you should have a crossover hit on your hands...
Trouble is, movie-logic doesn't always make sense. Despite Kassovitz's stylish direction, and some impressively moody cinematography, which drags you from dingy tombs to the frosty-heights of the Alps, The Crimson Rivers is less a Gallic Se7en, more a French Bone Collector. The problem? It's all in the script.
Quite simply, if you haven't read the book , The Crimson Rivers won't make any sense. Kassovitz rushes from revelation to revelation with little concern for whether or not his audience can keep up. The grim atmospherics are quickly dispelled - how can you maintain a gut-crunching concern for the characters if you're not sure where they are or why they're there? Matters are hardly helped by the studio releasing The Crimson Rivers with a dubbed soundtrack. This was done to make the film more palatable to American and British punters, but the attempt to avoid alienating audiences who normally steer clear of subtitled movies spectacularly backfires. Bizarrely, the three leads (Reno, Cassel and Fares) all supply their own, French-accented dialogue while everyone else speaks in Nu Yoik-style Yank-speak - despite the fact that all the action is happening in France. Even worse, the trio are forced to blurt the worst, B-movie cop dialogue you'll have heard since, well, Exit Wounds - "I'm not going back to Paris with my dick in my hand!" Cassel shouts at one point, to unintentional guffaws.
This is little more than snappy French cinema repackaged as a dumb straight-to-video cop flop.
Perhaps something got lost in the translation. Perhaps without its lip-sync problems and stinky dialogue, The Crimson Rivers is a passable cop thriller. But if Columbia TriStar had so much faith in it, why didn't it release it subtitled, as it did with Crouching Tiger?
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