This landmark caper film shows the robbery of a Parisian jewelry store and the complications that follow for the thieves--mastermind Tony (Jean Servais), a recently released ex-con who may or may not have a terminal respiratory problem; Jo (Carl Mohner), whom Tony served time to protect;
safecracker Cesar (the film's director, Jules Dassin, acting under the pseudonym Perlo Vita); and Mario (Robert Manuel)--all of them surprisingly decent men. The film's centerpiece is a 28-minute sequence that captures the robbery itself in fascinating detail, employing neither dialogue nor music,
allowing only the actual sounds of the thieves at work to be heard. Once the heist is accomplished, life doesn't get any easier for the crooks, as Tony's gangster rival (Marcel Lupovici) and cohorts get violently greedy after learning about the robbery through Cesar's indiscretion. The kidnapping
of Jo's son and plenty of shooting follow before RIFIFI (French slang for "trouble") is over.
This was the second European-made film for writer-director-actor Dassin, an American who plied his trade abroad after the House Un-American Activities Committee made life difficult at home. Dassin, whose wonderful you-are-there direction won him a share of the Best Director award at Cannes, also
manages to inject more than a little humor into this tension-filled genre classic, preceded by the likes of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and followed by films like BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET and Dassin's own TOPKAPI.
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