You simply had to be there to understand the hype around this movie at the turn of the century. The Crimson Rivers was hailed as the revolutionary serial killer movie, a French thriller to match the American Se7en. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine) and starring two extremely popular actors at that time Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel, it was a huge box-office success. With a $14 million budget, it made over $60 million and that’s not counting the subsequent DVD and Blu-Ray sales. I remember being blown away by it but for the life of me I couldn’t recall the story. I just knew it was taking place in a small university town and that it was quite nasty. Last night, I watched the movie again and this time it felt more mediocre and meandering than that first time.
I guess twenty years of watching psychological thrillers about serial killers does that to you. Now, the main plot twist seemed to be absurd and the movie took too much time to get going. But that title man, that title is just so fucking awesome. If your movie is titled The Crimson Rivers, you know it’s going to be a success. It sounds even better in the original French, Les Rivieres Pourpres. It opens with quite graphic scenes of decaying corpses, maggots, and other macabre elements. So, if you like this sort of stuff, you know you’re in for a treat.
We will be following Detective Niemans as he investigates a series of bizarre murders in a small university town. Based on the novel Blood Red Rivers by Jean-Christophe Grange, this is an atmospheric psychological thriller with exceptional dialogue and acting. However, if you examine the meat of it, the story feels too preposterous and contrived. I think they were well aware of this, so they used every trick in the book to keep your attention. The beautiful and snowy French alps were the perfect backdrop to contrast such horrid murders. If you’re wondering about that weird house that appears to be on stilts or long columns, that’s the Pavilion Keller.
A man has been found brutally murdered and ritually displayed near the small university town of Guernon in the French Alps. To help solve the case, the police call upon the services of experienced Parisian detective Niemans. However, his investigation seems to be going nowhere and bodies keep popping up. Each of them was more viciously murdered than the last. It is only when Niemans joins forces with a local police inspector Max Kerkerian that the two of them start making progress. The progress that will put both of their lives in danger.
Kassovitz filled the atmosphere with suspense and mystery covering up most of the issues we’ve talked about. And he loved shooting Jean Reno from the side emphasizing his beautiful nose. And I do like his nose, just like Cassel’s, they make them feel distinctive and charming at the same time. Just ten minutes in and we get a really spine-chilling autopsy scene. Graphic and visceral, The Crimson Rivers is a visually impactful movie. With a running time of just over 100 minutes, it’s also pacey and relatively short.
And since it’s taking place in this remote town, you feel like it exists in its own universe. Perhaps this is why it manages to get away with so many different things. Plus, that French charm will get the best of us, most certainly myself included. If you’re looking for movies like The Crimson Rivers, I suggest you check out Resurrection starring another French legend Christopher Lambert. You should also know that there’s a sequel out and that it’s just barely watchable. The television show, on the other hand, seems to be excellent starring none other than Olivier Marchal (Rogue City, The Last Deadly Mission) as Pierre Niemans.