Friday, April 08, 2005

DVD: Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse

The plot of 2000’s THE CRIMSON RIVERS would be right at home in Hollywood. Two detectives (Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel) work gruesome murder cases that ultimately come together at a mysterious, exclusive school in the Alps.

The movie is the Gallic version of a big studio blockbuster, only the result is actually entertaining. At times deliriously so. It combines Grand Guignol violence, style for its own sake, and first-rate hooey like a nun who has taken “the vow of shadows.” She can yammer all she wants, but she must remain in darkness. The movie occasionally flirts with incoherence – and I knew what was going on at that school from the get-go – but I loved every minute of its ferocious élan.

Around the same time, France also produced the period kung fu monster movie THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, also avec Cassel and another crackpot delight. These two movies called to mind the explosion of Hong Kong crime dramas ten years earlier, which proved that plenty of life remained in old genres.

RIVERS director Mathieu Kassovitz went Hollywood and made the Halle Berry thriller GOTHIKA. Both movies are a far cry from Kassovitz’s earlier work, like the gritty but stylish LA HAINE. (Kassovitz is still probably best known for playing the mystery man in AMELIE.)

But in showing the studios how it’s done, the RIVERS producers also picked up some bad habits. Like making unnecessary sequels.

Bad Sign #1: The follow-up went straight to video in the U.S.

Bad Sign #2: Jean Reno is the only key person from the original film to return.

Bad Sign #3: The script by one-man French film factory Luc Besson has nothing to do with the first movie. It’s a bunch of sub-DA VINCI CODE malarkey involving lost religious artifacts and surprisingly limber monks. On the plus side, Christopher Lee is the heavy.

Bad Sign #4: I only brought the sequel up so I could talk about how much I enjoyed the original.

Miscellaneous: Links

Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store links to two great articles from the Los Angeles Times. First, this piece on how the STAR WARS fans lined up outside the wrong theater know their part in the media frenzy. And a terrific look at STAR TREK bit players capitalizing on their odd slice of immortality. Yes, Michael Dante appeared in a memorable episode of the show, and he deserves his Golden Boot award. But to me, he’ll always be the creep in Samuel Fuller’s THE NAKED KISS.