The Crimson Rivers ★★★½

Crimson Rivers is based on a novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé and stars Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel. The story centres around two French policemen, one investigating a murder at a remote mountain college, and the other working on the desecration of a young girl's grave - apparently by skinheads. They each follow the clues from their cases which bring them together when they are both led to the same suspect/victim. They then begin working together and start to uncover a dark plot that the whole college becomes a part of.

I really enjoyed this and would have given it a better rating if not for 2 big flaws which I'll come to later. I'll start with the positive stuff. The acting is superb, and Jean Reno never seems to fail to do a decent job. He has real natural screen presence. Vincent Cassel also does a decent job although as a whole he's slightly less involved in the story as Jean. The photography and cinematography is superb with some breathtaking views over forest covered mountain sides, cliff faces, and glaciers. Some great motion trailing is evident throughout, along with some imaginative shots. The pacing for the most part is decent and the story always progressing at a good pace. The suspense and mystery is there, and often left me wondering where it was all going and eager for the story to unfold. There was certainly plenty of twists and turns on the journey. The effects for the corpses were very realistic and grisly and added that extra bit of darkness to the film.

And now for the flaws. Firstly, about a third of the way in, there's a sudden Jet Li style martial arts style fight between Cassel and some skinheads which took me by surprise and not really in a good way. It looked totally out of place in this movie, didn't go with the overall tone, and was unnecessary. On top of that, the choreography was a little shoddy to say the least. What I'm sure was intended to be an exciting action scene actually came across as a bit silly, and maybe even slightly comical in it's total suddenness and irrelevance.

Secondly, the ending is confusing to say the least and I had to get onto the internet afterwards to find an explanation. There's a reason for this as Vincent Cassel himself says about the movie: "I can't help explain the film because I didn't understand it!" "We cut out everything in the film that was explanatory, therefore 'boring' [according to the director]. You end up with a film that's not boring but you don't understand it [at] all.". I understand the need to trim things from a novel in order to edit the film to a reasonable running time but in this case they went a little too far. The film would have benefited from maybe just an extra 5 or 10 minutes of dialogue where events and actions were explained a little more clearly.

But despite these flaws, overall I thought it was a really good movie and I enjoyed watching it. I'd have probably given it an 8 but unfortunately those 2 flaws knock a point off it so.... final score 7/10

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