Title – Rififi (1955)
Director – Jules Dassin (Never on Sunday)
Cast – Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Pierre Grasset, Robert Hossein
Plot – Four Parisian criminals lead by the recently released from prison Tony le Stéphanois (Servais), undertake a technically complicated jewellery store heist that if done correctly will make the men multi-millionaires.
“There’s not a safe that can resist Cesar and not a woman that Cesar can resist”
Review by Eddie on 29/08/2019
Rififi is the grandfather of the modern heist movie, a tense, taut and well-constructed French crime caper directed by Jules Dassin that became the new benchmark for what a heist film should be and one of those rare golden age of cinema films that stands the test of times these many years on from initial release.
It’s a flawed classic, one that suffers from a lack of character development and sometimes gets side-tracked by some rather outrageous plot occurrences but at the end of the day, the key component that made Rififi the revered cinematic entry now is seen as remains perfectly intact and utterly gripping.
Taking the bold step of including its defining set-piece around the half way point of proceedings, Dassin and his team of willing performers pull-off what could arguably be the greatest cinematic heist of all time (certainly the most well-constructed) in the form of an extended near 30 minute sequence in which four criminals lead by Jean Servais’s recently released from prison Tony attempt to rob a jewelry store in the heart of Paris, silently.
It’s a sweat inducing and tension riddled exercise that perfectly captures the atmosphere that must be present in such a daring escapade and one that could never be bettered even by today’s increasingly boundary pushing film-making techniques.
There’s little doubt that this particular sequence is one of the most assured and confident sequences of the cinematic period and even cinema history thanks to Dassin’s wonderfully handling of the situation and the actors on-song turns during it, making it the type of extended scenario where you won’t be able to turn away from what’s happening on screen and will barely be able to take a breath, as our collection of criminals flirt the line of danger as time ticks by on their heist.
The rest of Dassin’s film pales in comparison to this defining segment but there’s still nicely defined constructions within the film such as its willingness to not allow the heist to be the conclusion, more so the jumping off point for further troubles and trials, while for a film of this era, Dassin isn’t afraid to push the boundaries dealing with such issues as drug abuse and cold-blooded murder that would’ve no doubt had the film classification board up in arms at the time.
Its unquestionable that without Rififi films such as Ocean’s 11 or even other crime outings such as Reservoir Dogs or Mission Impossible wouldn’t have been the films they ended up being, marking this genre-defining noir crime caper a cornerstone of cinema history.
Final Say –
A fine film with a particularly stunning segment that makes it a must watch for cinema die-hards and genre fans, Rififi is an oft-referenced and oft-copied classic that holds up incredibly well to this day.
4 socks out of 5