What's the French Word for 'Disorganized'?Ask any boy what he wants to be when he grows up and a large majority will tell you they want to be police officers. Studies in child psychology argue that many children want to be cops, firemen, doctors or athletes because of the emphasis society places on being the hero, and because of the praise this role warrants.
Equally fixated with policemen is the movie industry. But while a child's fascination with policemen (whom they see as heroes) is easily understood, I fail to comprehend the childlike fascination with which the movie industry holds this entirely played-out idea.
"The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres)" is yet another movie that fails in its attempt to breathe new life into an old cop theme. The story takes place in the French Alps during winter and opens fast and hard with unusually brutal closeups of a mutilated body. The victim is a staffer at an elite local college, and through autopsy it is discovered that his hands were cut off and eyes removed while still alive. In all, there are three victims who are investigated separately by the older, hardened Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno), and the younger, brash Lieutenant Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel). As the story progresses, the two investigations overlap and the criminologist and lieutenant begin working together.
A movie, like speech, should move in a definite forward direction to some unifying point or theme. In speech, we like to think of this forward motion to a point as "coherency." The effective speaker does not get sidetracked from the focus by going off on random tangents that do not support the conversation. Movies are the same; random tangents can be gratifying in and of themselves, but without being tied into a larger picture, they serve only as distractions.
By having too many different moods, "The Crimson Rivers" seems like a jigsaw puzzle of different movies. It starts off as a suspense-thriller, similar to "Seven" with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in terms of utterly graphic and shocking imagery. But then the mood is shifted when Max engages in a fight scene that we would expect to see in an action movie. Because the gory scenes of the first 10 minutes set a serious and melancholic tone, the action scene is completely in conflict and almost seems trite against an otherwise grim story.
While Mathieu Kassovitz's movie was lacking big on originality, he did manage to insert beautiful shots of the French Alps. But once again, this cinematography combined with a rock-climbing scene only introduces yet another random angle of the movie.
Perhaps most of the confusion, though, comes from the fact that this French movie is dubbed in English. Surprisingly, the quality of dubbed films has gotten better since those early 1970s Kung-fu classics, but even still, the viewer would have opted to have watched the movie in French with English subtitles as much of the subtle nuances of English slang seem to be used incorrectly (moviegoers able to read the Korean subtitles shouldn't have much of a problem).
Unlike Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop," Bruce Willis's "Die Hard" or Mel Gibson's "Lethal Weapon," this movie lacked any sort of comic relief that might have given it some saving grace.
And even with two great actors, whose performances in "The Professional" and "Joan of Arc" gave them immense popularity worldwide, the only thing that really distinguishes this movie from others of the same genre is that this time the cops are French, and the script is boring.
by Joseph Kim