The Crimson Rivers Review

The Film

The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivières Pourpres) is based on the book 'Red Blood Rivers' by Jean-Christophe Grangè and was a huge cinematic hit in France when it was released at the tail end of last year. While it didn't quite have the same following in the UK or US, plenty of cinemagoers that did get a chance to see the film in it's very limited theatrical release were fairly impressed. Earlier this year a feature-packed special edition DVD was released in France that spanned two discs, featured a DTS soundtrack and plenty of nice extras.

Very much in the same style as films such as David Fincher's Seven or even Silence of the Lambs, The Crimson Rivers is a remarkably dark and gritty thriller. Jean Reno plays Pierre Niemans - a Commissioner sent from Paris to Guernon to investigate a grizzly murder. A man is found hanging 150 meters up a cliff face - it transpires that he was tortured and left for up to five hours hanging before he died. At the same time, Max Kerkerian (Vincent Cassel), a gung-ho cop who is investigating the desecration of a tomb in Sarzac - a town 60 miles away. As the plot opens up, these two apparently unrelated crimes become intertwined and Niemans and Kerkerian have to work together to discover who is behind a growing number of murders. They're helped on their way by Fanny Ferreira (Nadia Fares), a young woman brought up in Guernon and who knows quite a lot about the mountains and glaciers surrounding the town.

The performances from the entire cast are first rate with Reno flourishing in the lead role. Cassel is also very good and gets right into his character. There is an excellent fight scene early on which is very reminiscent of a video game - even the sound effects are taken straight from Tekken or something very similar!

For the most part, The Crimson Rivers is an excellent thriller that we usually don't get to see from anywhere other than the US. The French scenery is put to excellent use with some stunning vistas - especially when flying over the snow-capped mountains around Guernon. Unfortunately, the final act is something of a disappointment - and doesn't fit in too well with the rest of the film. The final 'revelation' seems way too forced - a little too unbelievable, and I couldn't help thinking that something a little more sedate and low-key would have been ultimately more satisfying.

The Picture

Faultless. The DVD transfer on this disc is as perfect as they get with a crisp, artefact-free picture. The colours punctuate the screen and leave quite an impression - from the crisp snow on the mountains to the green leaves on the trees.

There isn't even a trace of any sort of digital artefacting - no edge-enhancement or posterisation. In fact this is probably the first transfer I cannot fault.

The Sound

Things are beginning to start looking slightly less impressive when it comes to the sound. Granted, the French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack here is very good - very good surround action with every speaker being put to good effect, especially in the last ten minutes. However when compared to the French DVD, we're lacking the excellent DTS soundtrack. The only reason I can fathom is that the DTS track would call for a two-disc release and given the limited appeal of this film in the US and UK the extra expense may not have been justifiable. However we could have quite happily have lost the English soundtracks all together and this may have given us the space.

The English 5.1 track is just as active, but nothing beats watching the film in the native French. And the English Dolby Surround track is just a complete waste of space.

The Extras

Before starting this section, I'd better say that you shouldn't watch any of these extras until you've seen the film - there are a number of spoilers dotted about. Also, DO NOT read the insert supplied with the disc as this also gives away some plot points.

First up we have the commentary featuring the director and cast. Unfortunately, this is entirely in French with no subtitles - there is no mention of this packaging so it's obviously going to be somewhat of a disappointment to non-French speakers (like me!). This appears to be the same commentary as was included on the French disc so you can see what Alexander Larman thinks of this commentary in his review.

"The Investigation" is a making-of documentary. Once again this is entirely in French, but this time we get subtitles. The documentary features plenty of input from the cast and crew discussing all of the main aspects of the story. It runs for approximately 50 minutes. There are three featurettes detailing certain aspects of the film. These include rough-cuts and storyboards on the autopsy, the car crash and the final sequence on a mountain.

Finally to round off we have some filmographies and the theatrical trailer (subtitled). It appears that in addition to the lack of a DTS soundtrack, we also miss a selection of extras that come under the title of 'In Memoriam' on the French disc.

In Conclusion

The Crimson Rivers is a good film, which doesn't quite attain 'excellent' status due to the unsatisfying final act. The Region 1 DVD is good, but unfortunately doesn't match the French release due to the lack of a DTS soundtrack, the unsubtitled French commentary and the lack of extras that made up the French disc. It's a shame that the French disc is inaccessible to non-French speakers, and it's unfortunate that Columbia Tristar couldn't replicate the quality of the disc for this Region 1 release.

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