36 Quai des Orfevres (2004)

“Only the dead don’t return.”

The film 36 Quai des Orfevres examines the relationship between two French detectives against the background and ethics of the ‘ends justifies the means’ tactic of using informers to catch criminals. When the film begins, a vicious gang has just knocked off yet another armoured car. With the number of victims climbing, the pressure is on to stop the gang, and if that’s not quite pressure enough for the two protagonists and rival detectives Leo Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil) and Denis Klein (Gerard Depardieu), there’s also a promotion in the air. Their boss, Robert Mancini (Andre Dussolier) is soon to retire, and both Klein and Vrinks want the job. At some point in the past, Vrinks and Klein were friends, but that’s long over. The film hints at a distant rivalry concerning Vrinks’ wife, Camille (Valeria Golino).

Sniffing that busting the armoured car gang will win that promotion, both Vrinks and Klein hold their cards to themselves, and instead of sharing information, they each investigate separately. Vrinks uses a snitch with disastrous results, and a chain of events is set in motion from which there is no return.

This dark, gritty police thriller explores the lives of its two police protagonists while making it clear that everyone is corrupt. However, there are degrees of corruption, according to director and former policeman Olivier Marchal. Both Vrinks and Klein are violent men, living in a violent world, but Vrinks still has some code of ethics left. The morose Klein, on the other hand, will stop at nothing to succeed, and just how far he’s prepared to go is the fodder of this gripping film. The psychological cat-and-mouse game between Vrinks and Klein creates the explosive dynamic for this riveting crime film. 36 Quai des Orfevres, incidentally, is the address of the equivalent of the French Scotland Yard. In French with English subtitles. From director Olivier Marchal.

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Filed under Crime, Daniel Auteuil, France, Gerard Depardieu

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