The Crimson Rivers

That it starts out as the best Dario Argento movie Argento never made makes this French policier's mundane ending, which smacks of American action thriller clichés, all the more disappointing. But for most of its running time, this lunatic euro-thriller is creepy, stylish and occasionally suspenseful. Two cops are conducting two apparently unconnected investigations....read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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That it starts out as the best Dario Argento movie Argento never made makes this French policier's mundane ending, which smacks of American action thriller clichés, all the more disappointing. But for most of its running time, this lunatic euro-thriller is creepy, stylish and occasionally suspenseful. Two cops are conducting two apparently unconnected investigations. Big shot Inspector Pierre Niemans (grizzled Jean Reno) has been summoned from Paris to assist local police in Guernon, a small town in the French Alps dominated by an elite private university. The naked body of a graduate student, Remy Caillois (Laurent Avare), has been found hanging from a cliff, his hands severed and his eyes poked out. Meanwhile, 180 miles away in another small town, Sarzac, cocky young Detective Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel) is looking into the desecration of a child's grave. Little Judith Herault has been dead for 20 years, run over on the highway by a truck. So why has someone scrawled swastikas on her grave, and why have the girl's academic records vanished from the local grammar school? The mystery deepens when Kerkerian tracks down Judith's mother, who's taken the name Sister Andree (Dominque Sanda), joined a convent of cloistered nuns, and embraced the most intense form of isolation the order permits. Kerkerian suspects she's hiding something, though he can't imagine what, and begins nosing around with more persistence than the situation would seem to warrant. Meanwhile, back in Guernon, Niemens is being politely stonewalled by university personnel. Only the rebellious student Fanny (Nadia Farès) seems willing to help him, and together they find another mutilated corpse. Niemans also uncovers rumors that the faculty, dedicated to passing on their intellectual genes, have intermarried for so many generations that their children are plagued by congenital infirmities, lending the school's robust motto — "A healthy mind in a healthy body" — a somewhat ominous edge. Eventually, the investigations dovetail and the two cops form an uneasy alliance in hopes of getting to the bottom of matters, and it's not giving away much (remember that motto) to reveal that, like the German ANATOMY (2000), the mystery is driven by fear of eugenics. The film's gruesome goings-on are a staple of American direct-to-video serial killer movies (and the occasional breakthrough hit like 1995's SEVEN, to which this picture has been compared), but they're given an exotic air by director Mathieu Kassovitz's solemn direction and the breathtaking locations.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: That it starts out as the best Dario Argento movie Argento never made makes this French policier's mundane ending, which smacks of American action thriller clichés, all the more disappointing. But for most of its running time, this lunatic euro-thriller is… (more)

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