Le Cercle Rouge

Le Cercle Rouge ★★★★

I don't go in for crime thrillers all that much. Which is odd, because I usually end up liking them. Le Cercle Rouge is no different.
Aesthetically, this film gels together more than it has any right to; the cold visuals paired with a French jazz soundtrack that just drips sexy. I was totally enamored by its world for all two and a half hours. The set-pieces are gorgeous too, the heist sequence in particular clearly inspiring so many classics over the years (including my beloved Once Upon a Time in America). The use of sound really grabbed my attention. Sometimes the door slams are loud, sometimes the same action is much quieter, and the mix drowns in silence. It's genius, really.
The performances are uniformally great. It was a surprise seeing Gian-Maria Volonte's name pop up in the opening credits, but he doesn't get as much to do here as he did in the Dollars films. In fact, that might be my only real complaint about the film: the characters are a bit forgettable.
For me, the "story" in these films usually takes a backseat. There are only so many ways to tell a heist tale. But I think strong characters are essential to genre films, sometimes even more than the typical genre set-pieces themselves. To be clear, the characters are intentionally "underwritten". There's very little dialogue in this film, and it tells most of its story visually. It takes about an hour for it to get moving, and I genuinely like that. It takes its time, but it's never boring. But there are some interesting ideas here, that are never really explored in any depth. One of my only complaints about Stray Dog, another crime film which I really like, is that it can be a little too in-your-face at times in that typical Kurosawa way. Maybe there's a line somewhere though, because I think this film could benefit from some more hefty dialogue scenes sprinkled here and there, instead of discarding characters once it's done with them.
That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Le Cercle Rouge. I couldn't be more in-sync with its setting, and some of those set-pieces will live in my mind for a while. Great stuff.
Watched as part of the Movies and Filmmaking Roulette

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