Rififi (1955) - 8/10
Tony (Jean Servais) has been in jail for robbery for 5 years. Back out on the street of 50s Paris, he’s not looking too good. He probably should go take it easy someplace, but instead is drawn into a jewel heist. He’s what might’ve been called a lovable rogue, but through todays lens he’s really just a scumbag. Beating his ex and upping the ante from a jewel smash and grab to an intricate vault robbery. Along with his mates Jo (Carl Möhner) looking a bit like James Dean, Mario (Robert Manuel) and debonair safe cracker Cesar (Jules Dassin) they plan to rob a jeweller and pocket a lot of ice (that’s diamonds to us). A simple enough plot, complicated by Tony’s ex hooking up with Louis, a local gangster with the kind of haircut that screams dangerous Italian dude. The details of the planning are lovely and the streets of old Paris are a joy, but it’s the cast that make this tick. Although Tony is a generally dislikable sort, the rest of the crew are all charismatic and I’m instantly invested. There’s no idiot proofing either, it’s not Oceans Eleven. Everything we need to know is deftly revealed simply by the actions on screen and the pacing is pitch perfect. As is much of the cinematography. There’s some gorgeously classic stuff and a score to match too. When we get to the break in, it’s close to a silent movie choreographed with utter beauty. It’s perhaps this middle act that gives Rififi such a glowing reputation, but it’s the final act when the carefully laid plans come unstuck that the tension really ramps up. A classy crime thriller. Right up to the gripping emotional finale.