Studiocanal are releasing a set of six key films of celebrated director Jean-Pierre Melville in his centenary year, part V is Le Cercle Rouge, aka The Red Circle.
Corey, Alain Delon (Un Flic, Le Samourai), is fresh out of prison, released early for good behaviour. Just before he leaves he’s informed about a job by a bent prison guard. Corey is reluctant, but reluctantly he agrees.
Vogel, Gian Maria Volonte (A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More), is being transported by Commissaire Mattei, Bourvil (The Longest Day, The Sucker), but manages to escape when the train slows down.
Corey meanwhile, pays a visit to an old friend, Andre Ekyan, who has stolen his girl and owes him some money. He takes a large wad of cash and a gun and flees. Ekyan though, isn’t happy and sets two goons to find him.
Ekyan doesn’t give up so easily and sends more. Whilst on the run, Vogel runs into Corey, he proves himself when the next two goons catch up to the men and Corey decides to fill Vogel in on the job he’s been passed.
They need a few further people to help though, they bring on an old pal of Vogel’s, Jansen, Yves Montand (The Wages Of Fear, Z), a former crack-shot police officer, now having a hard time on the drink. They also need a fence and go for Paul Crauchet (Army Of Shadows, Un Flic).
They pull off the job with relative ease, but getting rid of the loot proves difficult as Ekyan pressures Crauchet not to help them. Bourvil, meanwhile, won’t give up the chase and pressures bar owner Santi, Francois Perier (Le Samourai, Z), into helping him find Vogel, coincidentally, this is who the gang turn to next to find a new fence.
The relentless Mattei will stop at nothing to catch his man which includes some underhand tactics involving Santi’s 16-year old son.
Once again, Melville delights with his methodical and slow nature, capturing every little detail of both Vogel and Corey, leaving no stone unturned.
We traverse France, from the openness of empty fields, to forests to the centre of Paris. During the heist itself, which is a jewellery store, Melville covers every minute in total detail.
We follow the gang entering the building, disabling the guard, disabling the alarm system, leaving no trace, ensuring they take everything they can. Melville’s coverage is as meticulous as the gang’s is for the robbery.
I enjoyed Delon’s performance a lot. He reminds me of a young Charles Bronson, he has a look that, on occasion, almost breaks the fourth wall but Melville keeps it just off centre.
Volonte doesn’t have the role he has in say A Fistful Of Dollars but he performs well the little we see of him. Bourvil is a delight as the police officer who wants his man. Relentless, stubborn and able to call on everyone he knows to catch the one that got away.
As usual with this collection, the transfer is lovely, only dropping quality on one or two scenes. The DVD extras include an interview with the first assistant director Bernard Stora, whilst Blu-ray viewers also get Code Name Melville too.
Melville, The Essential Collection boxset is released on December 11th 2017 and features brand-new 4k restorations and new extras. The films included are: Le Doulos, Bob Le Flambeur, Leon Morin, Priest, L’Armee Des Ombres, The Cercle Rouge and Un Flic.