Crimson Rivers Mathieu Kassovitz

Crimson Rivers Mathieu Kassovitz
"Crimson Rivers" has fairly or unfairly, depending on your interpretation of such things, been pegged as "Seven"-esque, not a bad movie to be measured against by any means — Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, David Fincher, what more could you want? While it may not be on the same level as "Seven," thankfully, it hasn't been pegged as "Kiss The Girls"-esque or "Bone Collector"-esque, two movies that attempted to mine a similar style, if not theme, and were corroded by Hollywood's formulaic embrace.

But "Crimson Rivers" (or "Les Rivieres Pourpres," its French title) eschews a similar fate by being French, and based on the rather successful novel of the same title. Sub-titled, its characters lacking much in the way of background (somewhat of a problem, actually) and conservative in the revealing of its plot, "Crimson Rivers" may have difficulty appealing to audiences seduced by the meaningless gore of "Hannibal," but it is a better movie, even if you have to read to follow it.

Jean Reno ("The Professional") plays the hardened veteran Pierre Niemans (akin to the world-weary Morgan Freeman character of "Seven"), who's called in to investigate a rather gruesome mutilation/torture/murder in Guernon, located in the French Alps. Vincent Cassel plays the young, ill-tempered Max Kerkerian (akin to the impetuous Brad Pitt character, also of "Seven"), a recently reassigned officer who investigates a desecrated graveyard in Sarzac. Although hundreds of miles apart, the two are drawn together to a prestigious and isolated mountain university, seemingly the focal point of the growing number of murders. Where they realise that the slayings aren't just psychopathic misanthropy for the sake of, but are pointing the way to exposing a deeper, darker underlying conspiracy.

While the film's biggest strengths are its breathtaking nature scenes (much of this movie was shot on a glacier), and its ability to disturb with its rather graphic mutilation shots — the opening sequence features insects crawling on, around and in a number of wounds of the first deceased victim — its Achilles' heel is its ending. Although it does tie together all the plot threads rather neatly, perhaps too neatly, it fails to have the impact that "Seven"'s ending had — although it is an unfair comparison — seemingly formulaic when compared to the unravelling mystery of the rest of the film.

Still, "Crimson Rivers" features excellent cinematography, the indomitable Jean Reno and some kick-ass martial arts fight scenes make it more than worth the nearly two hours worth of reading it requires.