Based on Jean-Christophe Grange's novel "Blood Red Rivers," the movie follows two cops--one a frayed loner (Jean Reno), the other a fearless hipster (Vincent Cassel)--as they investigate the murder of a library aide at an exclusive university isolated in the Swiss Alps.
The strange and grisly killing--the boy is found curled in the fetal position with his hands and eyes missing--eventually leads Reno's Pierre Niémans to Max Kerkerian (Cassel), who is investigating the desecration of a tomb with swastikas. If it sounds political, it's because it is. Kassovitz has always injected his movies with charged political confrontations as a way to create drama and suspense. His characters consistently have political, not personal, motivations. In that way he is closest in spirit to Spike Lee. This time, the approach gives a routine thriller much more depth.
Kassovitz has also studied Hitchcock; his murder-mystery unfolds against the exotic snow-covered mountains and alpine lodges of Switzerland (like Hitchcock's 1934 version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"). He also throws in a reference to the "eye shot" in "Psycho."
Some may blast the film as derivative, but that ignores the playful skill of Kassovitz's style. He throws it all at the wall--even tossing in a neat martial-arts sequence--and most of it sticks.
Jean Reno's portrayal of a veteran cop on the razor's edge has a calmness that's preferable to the hysteria a bad actor would bring to the role. He's more of a burnout. Cassel is also good as a cocksure detective.
The movie's awful ending should have been revamped before the camera rolled. Starring Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel and Nadia Fares. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. Written by Jean-Christophe Grange and Mathieu Kassovitz. Produced by Alain Goldman. A TriStar release. Thriller. Rated R for violence/grisly images and language. Running time: 104 minutes.