Le Cercle rouge is a classic gangster movie with some obvious inspiration from American film noir. The French Jean-Pierre Melville has made a trademark of this type of “gangster existentialism” films and inspired, first the New Hollywood movement and then later, directors like Quentin Tarantino. This installment is the second in his trio revolving around the underground gangster brotherhood in France (the other two is: Le Samourai (1967) and Un Flic (1972).
The film’s main characters or “anti-hero’s” are a trio of misfits; a newly released thief (Alain Delon), an escaped convict (Gian-Maria Volonte) and a drunken ex-cop (Yves Montand). They are hunted by an experienced police detective (Bourvil) as the plan a big jewelry heist.
The heist is well planned and well executed and the viewer is hold in a tight grip of suspense. And all this without any film score that tells us what to feel. So the heist alone is a classic scene and worth a viewing.
All the characters in this film are silent and cool (and sometimes immoral). They are all wearing trench coats and smokes constantly. But under the hard surface of these men, we sometimes get a glance of the strong bond between them and how they are driven by a strict code of honor. And this is where you start to care about them.
This hardboiled film wouldn’t even be close of passing the Bechdel Test, the women are nonexistent (but for a short sequence of a nude ex-girlfriend and some dancing girls in a bar) But if you can live with that you will love this film. It’s stylish, low key, and at times a very tense experience. Not as good as Le Samourai (but that’s impossible) but still one of the best French movies ever made…