French thriller delivers the chills with an unconventional plot

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 12:00am

French action thriller The Crimson Rivers delivers a chilling science fiction plot and some highly violent blood-stained scenes.

Many critics have compared the film with the Hollywood classic Seven (directed by David Fincher in 1995 and notable for its extraordinary shock value), with which it shares an obvious resemblance in style and aesthetics.

Though inferior to its American predecessor, this work of French director Mathieu Kassovitz is based on a very orig inal story adapted from best-selling novel of the same title, Les Rivieres Pourpres.

The opening scene sets the tone of the movie in icy snowiness. A body is found hanging off the side of a mountain in a fetal position, with his hands mutilated and eyes removed from their sockets. The chilly environment intensifies the feel of the cold- bloodedness of the murder.

The repetitive imagery of running streams of blood in later scenes creates a stark contrast to the white background of the beginning scene.

The imagery of intense terror, death and cruelty, as spelt out in the title, forms the motif of this serial murder flick.

Two following killings lead legendary detective Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) from Paris step by step into a human experiment conspiracy that takes place at a remote college in the French Alps.

In a parallel sub-plot, young district cop Max Kerkerian (Vin cent Cassel) investigates a petty grave robbery in connection with a girl's death 20 years ago.

The two cases turn out to be related and bring the two cops together to unravel the mystery.

The plot advances at a fast and rhythmic pace.

It flashes from one scene to another to give viewers a feeling of travelling via a time machine from one space to another between sets.

There are also exciting scenes of fighting, mountain climbing, chases and car crashes to complete the visual enjoyment.

A fight between Max and some skinheads is interestingly superimposed with visual and sound effects mimicking a video game.

The story contains some real surprises but cannot be compared with Seven for shock value because of a less universal theme.

Its plot is a bit over-complicated that viewers may not be able to understand the development of events in one single viewing.

For European-movie lovers, it may not be a good sign that a French work departs from characteristic French thrillers, which are often mixed with a heavy dose of romance, to be more like an American thriller.

The Crimson Rivers is showing on the Broadway and UA circuits and at AMC Festival Walk.

Graphic: YPFRGLO

Graphic: F22GLO