Starring: Alain Delon, Jean Gabin
Studio: Kino Video
Video: 1.66:1 Widescreen Enhanced for 16:9
Extras: Trailer, Stills Gallery, Filmography, The Alain Delon Collection
Length: 94 minutes
As the main character, Germain, dishearteningly relates an experience he had with a criminal in a prison in which he worked, the tone of the story is immediately set to one of loss and tragedy. He is an educator—a cross between an instructor, confidante, and therapist. Part of his job is to make recommendations to the uncompassionate parole board. Over the years he has befriended a safecracker named Gino whom he convinces can make something of his life once he leaves the confines of the prison. Gino has a wife on the outside and begins to believe that he can start a new life. He’s wrong.
Instantly, his old buddies in crime come looking for him to work with them. He proclaims that he has turned over a new leaf and will live the straight life. But soon after his release an accident leaves him devastated and he is left to pick up the pieces. Germain does his best to help him along with a job and a good place to live. After a while he begins to be happy again. Just when things have settled, the police inspector who brought him in the first time, harasses him and will not leave him or his friends alone. His reformation to a “good citizen” does not last long. Ultimately, he resorts to violence to deal with the situation and finds himself on death row.
This film was written and directed by Jose Giovanni, an actual pardoned death row inmate, so the portrayal of the main character is entirely natural and true to life. Much of the film involves commentary of the justice system in France as well as an interesting perspective of the criminal himself. There is a good deal of emphasis put on how Gino readjusts to life on the outside and how the rest of society accepts (or doesn’t accept) him. The character seems quite resigned throughout much of the film mirroring how we’d expect a person in his place in life to react. The draw of the film is the sympathy the viewer feels with both main characters. We understand how tired and hopeless the educator’s job seems when others exhibit inhuman behavior or a disdain for those they care for. And although the newly paroled Gino is somewhat of an underdog, we root for him. We want to believe that he can be honest, hardworking, accepted back into society, satisfied and happy. When this just doesn’t happen, it is hard not to be disappointed and sad. Sad at the realization that this is what many have faced and failed as well.
Aside from the solid acting and story, the cinematography and music contribute to what many would call the classic ‘70s French noir feel. A liking for this type of film will elevate the rating to three and a half stars.