When a skilled rock climber discovers a dead body hanging over the French Alps, the Police begin to investigate. This isn’t just an average dead body- not only was it hanging off a cliff, but the victim had his eyes removed, and his hands cut off. The Police workforce can’t fully understand what occurred or, most importantly, determine who did the crime, and Detective Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) is called in to assist on the case. Now Pierre is following one clue to the next, hoping to stop whoever murdered the man.
At the same time, we are introduced to another Detective, Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel). Max has begun investigating the vandalism and damage of a young girl’s grave. Max makes various strange discoveries, including evidence of the young girl disappearing, leading him to question how the young girl died in the first place. The more Max digs, the more questionable aspects become. It isn’t long before Max crosses paths with Pierre and the two discover that somehow their cases are linked, and they are both hunting for the same person. Can Pierre and Max work together to understand the strange case and discover who is behind it all before it’s too late?
For those unaware, The Crimson Rivers is based on a novel, Blood Red Rivers, written by Jean-Christophe Grange. In French with English subtitles, The Crimson Rivers has a similar vibe to the film Se7en, which was released in 1995. Here, we have a detective discovering countless strange murders, which in due time, requires him to team up with another detective in hopes of finding the killer behind it all. I have always admired how the story gets underway instantly, with Pierre arriving at the crime scene immediately and being briefed by the local police. We see the crime from the beginning, including the strange state of the corpse. For viewers, the opening is an instant hook as it’s filled with weird, strange and mysterious aspects, all making it impossible not to be highly curious to know more. Thankfully, there are plenty of twists and turns throughout the rest of the film too. Even when I felt confident about who the killer was, the film managed to outsmart and surprise me with its conclusion.
While The Crimson Rivers is a solid thriller, I must confess that upon my first viewing, I found some of the reveals slightly complex. Some of the finer details are spoken of at a fast pace, making aspects easy to miss. Consequently, viewers might need help grasping all the significant turns. By an additional viewing, I felt more confident and pleased with its reveals, but again, it’s a bit to process, no matter how many times you watch it all play out.
The music throughout is creepy and unsettling, creating a suspenseful and uncomfortable atmosphere. The performances are excellent, particularly from Jean Reno, who commands the screen. His character is relatively calm, professional, thorough, and determined. Actor Vincent Cassel, who plays Max, is also quite remarkable and brings an entirely different character to life. Max is way louder, sneaky, and pushy, but he shares one significant quality with Pierre- determination. Naturally, once the two characters decide to team up and work the case together, the film is heightened again, and a fun friendship slowly develops.
Overall, this French film is a must-watch if you adore dark thrillers such as Se7en (1995). Viewers are instantly taken into chaos and mysteries, making it impossible not to be hooked and connected to the story. Performances from both Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel are excellent, and the characters differ from each other yet share a joint determination to find the killer. The unpredictable twists surprise at every turn, but some reveals are slightly complex on the first watch as major twists are announced quickly. Having rewatched the movie several times, my appreciation has grown each watch. The Crimson Rivers is a film that certainly warrants more attention from fellow film buffs, and it’s no surprise that later, fans would receive a sequel and eventually a TV series with four seasons. The Crimson Rivers (2000) is Now Available on Blu-ray – After Dark: Neo-Noir Cinema Collection Two from Imprint Films.
21st December 2022
Written by Peter Walkden
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Our opinion on this feature has also been submitted to Rotton Tomatoes (Audiences Score*).