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The Crimson Rivers

The Crimson Rivers on DVD

Watery DVD?

Even the biggest movie freak would be forgiven for never having heard of this movie. This is because it's a French film, and was actually a very big hit in France. So, Columbia Tristar acquired the American video distribution rights in hopes it would appeal to the English audience.

I must admit, I'm not sure what attracted me to the film. While I was doing my usual research, I came upon it and it looked like a typical direct-to-video release, which I would normally avoid at all costs. But I decided to do a bit more research, and discovered that it had been a big hit in France, I was intrigued.

The Crimson Rivers opens with a long, aerial shot of a car driving through the mountains. It's a nice shot, in a beautiful location.

The film could be compared to Seven in a way, in that it's about a killer who is leaving clues about the killings, and is doing it all for a very good reason. It starts off with two separate storylines: Commissaire Niemans (Jean Reno) is investigating a body found hanging from a mountain; Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel) is investigating some graffiti that was sprayed on a mausoleum. About halfway into the movie, both storylines lead to the same place, and the two join forces to find the truth.

There are some nice twists, and a good one at the end that even had me fooled. Just when I thought I had it figured out, it threw me a curveball and struck me out.

Be warned, however: the film is in French (as many French films tend to be). You can either view it with English dubbing (but it always looks cheesy when the mouth doesn't fit with the words, and also when you know it's not the actor's real voice), or in French with English subtitles. As long as you can read the subtitles without missing any of the movie, the latter is generally more preferable.

Jean Reno is a highly underused actor. He is always excellent, and has a very strong screen presence. It would be nice to see him in more movies, as long as they're good ones (not stuff like Just Visiting). He plays the legendary Pierre Niemans to a T. Vincent Cassel is also very good as Max, the young, hotshot detective.

There are a lot of thriller clichés present, but the movie is well-structured and entertaining, and that's the important thing. It has definitely gotten me interested in checking out some other foreign films.

If you like thrillers, and don't care what language you watch them in, The Crimson Rivers is an excellent choice.

Columbia has done an really good job with the DVD, especially considering it's a relatively unknown film. Most of the film is set, and was filmed, in the mountains of France, and the locations are beautiful. The daytime scenes are appropriately bright, but not so bright that the snow overpowers everything else. The night scenes are appropriately dark, but not so dark that you can't see anything. The picture is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks flawless throughout. The audio is equally impressive, presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The car chase scene is a good example of the quality of the sound track.

The extras include a director and cast commentary, "The Investigation" documentary, three "Post Mortem" featurettes: "The Corpse," "The Car Chase," and "Mountain Sequence," filmographies, production notes, and the trailer (shown in French).

Keep up the good work, Columbia.

The Crimson Rivers, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
105 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Starring Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel, Nadia Fares, Jean-Pierre Cassel and Karim Belkhadra
Written by Jean-Christophe Grange and Mathieu Kassovitz
Based on the novel by Jean-Christophe Grange
Produced by Alain Goldman
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz.


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Updated May 13, 2006