Can a French 1970 color film that stars cool guys like Alain Delon and Yves Montand qualify as film noir? You bet, especially when written and directed by a master of noir like Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur, Le Doulos, Le Samourai).
A thief gets out of prison, immediately robs his former crime boss and goes on the run. An escaped murderer stows away in the trunk of his car. Now they are both on the run from a very cynical and driven cop – as well as from the gangsters. They hire a dissolute former cop and try to pull off a heist. The honest cop who is chasing them squeezes a shady nightclub owner to betray them.
There’s a chase and shootings and a heist that takes up the final 30 minutes, but Le Cercle Rouge is not about the action. It’s about the nature of these characters, guys who live by their own codes. They know what they’re gonna do, and they don’t need to think about why. There’s minimal dialogue, and they look and act really cool for all 140 minutes.
Criterion has just released Le Cercle Rouge on DVD. Take a look. Here’s the trailer in French.