Studiocanal are releasing a set of six key films of celebrated director Jean-Pierre Melville in his centenary year, part VI is Un Flic, aka The Cop, aka Dirty Money.
Un Flic is the shortest of the six films featured in Melville, The Essential Collection, it’s also the final film Melville ever made and, whether this is related or not, is also the most unsuccessful of the six.
Alain Delon (Le Cercle Rouge, Le Samourai) plays police officer Edouard Coleman. He is friends with Simon, Richard Crenna (Rambo, JAG (TV)) who runs a local bar. He is also sleeping with Simon’s wife/girlfriend Catherine Deneuve (Belle De Jour, Dancer In The Dark).
What Coleman doesn’t know about Simon, is that he’s also committing robberies in his spare time. The first one he does is a small bank robbery with Andre Pousse (Pasha, Flic Story), Michael Conrad (Hill Street Blues (TV), The Mean Machine) and Riccardo Cucciolla (Rabid Dogs, Blood On The Streets).
It goes well up until the point Pousse is shot and has to be taken to a clinic. An escape plan fails and so it is left to Deneuve to finish him off before he talks.
This leaves the remaining gang to plan their next heist, the big one. They plan to rob a drug baron who is moving his drugs via a train using a man known as Suitcase Matthew, Leon Minisini (a former wrestler).
Un Flic feels somewhat rushed and against Melville’s usual style in that it’s formulaic and certain events are never really fully explained. This, together with the characters being mostly unexplored, leaves a frustrating film.
The big heist set-piece, involving a helicopter, winch and a moving train, was obviously too expensive to film and so was completed with models. Think the original Thunderbirds and you’ll get the idea of what it looks like on-screen.
In usual Melville style it’s a long-piece too. The gang have just 20 minutes to complete the heist before the train reaches the next station and the set-piece is 20 minutes long.
Delon is ok as the policeman, the film revolves around him heavily, but he also feels detached and aloof. It’s something that isn’t explored or explained, the other officers just give him the time and space he needs, trusting he’ll get it done.
Melville regular Crauchet is reduced to a few lines and a few scant looks. Crenna performs well, though we don’t get to know his character at all well. We don’t know his motivations, we don’t know why he appears to accept his wife having an affair and therefore why he does what he does at the end.
It’s not all bad. The opening scene, which is the first bank robbery, is wonderfully shot and typical Melville. A long tracking shot as the gang approach the bank in the same American car we saw in Le Cercle Rouge. The rain is lashing and the sound of the sea breaking on the coast.
Similarly, the final scene is well done too. A stand-off between Simon and Coleman with Deneuve watching on. An overhead shot shows us Coleman and Crauchet getting back into their police car, everything returning to normal in their lives, but not so for everyone else.
As usual in the collection, the transfer is glorious and you get a documentary on the film (although it’s more about Melville and Delon than the film per-say) with interviews of script supervisor Florence Moncarge-Gabin and first assistant director Jean-Francois Delon.
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.