Jean Reno (The Professional) is hotshot commissaire Niemans, who has been sent from Paris to investigate the gruesome murder of a librairian from a top university. Vincent Cassel (Dobermann) plays Lieutenant Kerkerian whose investigation will cross Niemans's path.
The Crimson Rivers is at first riveting thanks to the deep mystery surrounding a university lost in the mountains and reminiscent of the monastery in The Name Of The Rose. With characters played by Reno and Cassel, two actors with a strong presence onscreen, the film had all the ingredients for a sure hit.
Unfortunately, a lazy script and cliché-driven direction quickly turn the movie into a ridiculous mess. While it canâ.t be denied that the film is a vehicle for irony and that the references to Seven are too obvious to merely be the work of a copycat, the direction slips too many times on the script's lousy tricks.
In spite of a good opening, you know you are in trouble as soon as the music score becomes pompous. From there, The Crimson Rivers goes for cheap thrills: clues falling from the sky while unbelievable action sequences intertwine with buddy-movie clichés before concluding on a predictable ending with a twist.
Not that the film is unbearable. Reno and Cassel are always a treat onscreen and the French Alps scenery is gorgeous. There are also a few appealing cameos (Jean-Pierre Cassel, Vincent's dad, and Dominique Sanda). But that's it.
By trying to push the "French Touch" beyond Hollywood's boundaries, Kassovitz signed his most impersonal film to date and corrupted the originality that made his reputation.
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