Sunday, July 20, 2008

Melville's Finale

Un Flic (Dirty Money) (LionsGate)
Jean-Pierre Melville’s last film was this caper flick about a detective whose shares a beautiful mistress with his close friend, a criminal planning one last daring heist. Never a first-rate director, Melville nevertheless was at his best staging action sequences, and the most memorable moments in Un Flic are mostly dialogue-less set pieces showing the minutiae involved in crimes: the opening, fog-enshrouded bank robbery; an exciting train robbery engineered with a helicopter; and the fatal dose given to a hospitalized victim by the mistress dressed as a nurse. Alain Delon (cop), Richard Crenna (criminal) and Catherine Deneuve (mistress) look absolutely right, but are given little in the way of characterizations. It's too bad that Melville’s fatal flaw—his reliance on effect rather than psychology—kept even his most intriguing fictions from achieving greatness.

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