dir. Jules Dassin | 115 min | French with English subtitles
A world-wide smash, Rififi is widely considered the trailblazer of the action-heist genre. It raised eyebrows for its controversial gunplay, raunchy dress, and dope use, which culminated in a condemnation by the American Legion of Decency and a blacklisting of the director. This existential thriller earned Dassin Cannes’ Best Director prize, set the standard for screen robberies for decades to come, and now provides an invaluable time capsule of Paris in the 50s.
Blacklisted in Hollywood, the talented Jules Dassin (The Naked City, Brute Force) moved to Europe, where he directed Rififi, a black, disturbing film with an extended, nearly silent heist segment lasting 35 minutes. The pacing is assured, the tension palpable. Jean Servais does a fine turn as grim-faced, gang-leader Tony. Inevitably, loose lips derail the crime, and rival criminals enter the scene. The criminal clans clash, and the body count grows. In the midst of the crime and carnage, Dasin lingers on the marginalized and abused girlfriends and wives, undercutting concepts of criminal nobility. Dassin seals the movie’s greatness with Tony’s final sojourn. Bleeding profusely, he drives his rescued 5-year-old nephew home through the streets of Paris. As he careens wildly, the cowboy-hatted boy jumps from back seat to front seat in the speeding convertible, all while shooting his toy six-shooter – an unnerving end to a tough film.