Art and design

Books

Culture

Environment

Fashion

Film

Life and style

Money

Music

Politics

Science

Technology

Travel

Television

US news

World news

Le Doulos review – Jean-Pierre Melville's brilliant but moody tough-guy drama

Fabienne Dali and Jean-Paul Belomondo in Le Doulos.
Fabienne Dali and Jean-Paul Belomondo in Le Doulos. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1962 thriller Le Doulos is rereleased in connection with a complete retrospective for his centenary at London’s BFI Southbank. The title means “hat”, slang for informer, stoolpigeon, rat or grass, and it’s a moody, ruminative lowlife crime drama winding up with as many corpses on the floor as Hamlet, and pungent with the sweaty maleness of Melville’s tough-guy pictures.

It’s also a world of grisly unreflective misogyny, in which women can be slapped around and beaten up. The movie features Melville’s classic images: the nightclub scenes, impassive criminals in cars wearing the uniform of snap-brim hats, trench coats, cigarettes dangling from the mouth – so uniform, in fact, that they look alike, and Le Doulos is the one Melville film that finally puts a self-aware, black-comic narrative twist on this generic mannerism.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Silien, a safe-cracker who labours under the reputation of a “doulos” because of his friendship with a cop. His buddy Maurice (played by the Italian actor and singing star Serge Reggiani) is just out of prison and, having already whacked the fence he knows killed his girlfriend while he was inside, is now on the run again because his latest robbery was interrupted by Silien’s inspector friend, whom Maurice shoots dead before escaping. Silien is suspected of fitting him up, so he realises that to redeem his criminal honour, he must get the law off Maurice’s back by framing an alternative suspect for the cop killing: creepy club-owner Nutthecchio (Michel Piccoli).

It’s a very distinctive movie, although not as good, for me, as Melville’s Le Samourai or Army of Shadows. There is a brilliant moment when a victim stares terrified into the camera lens – and we realise he is staring down the barrel of the gun that will kill him.

This article titled "Le Doulos review – Jean-Pierre Melville's brilliant but moody tough-guy drama" was written by Peter Bradshaw, for The Guardian on Friday 11 August 2017 12.00pm

Film

Colette review – Keira Knightley is on top form in exhilarating literary biopic

No, not another biopic about a writer! Ugh, Keira Knightley’s in a corset again! Get all of that… Read more

Academy of excellence… The Observer’s alternative Oscars

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic Best picture – my shortlist (favourite first) • Raw • Get Out •… Read more

The Happy Prince review – Rupert Everett is magnificent in dream role as dying Oscar Wilde

It is a part he was born to play, and he does it with exactly the right kind of poignantly ruined… Read more

Dorothy Malone obituary

Although the Hollywood star Dorothy Malone, who has died aged 92, appeared in only a handful of… Read more

The Post review – all the news they don’t want you to print

“We can’t have an administration dictating to us our coverage just because they don’t like what we… Read more

Our New President review – fake news buffet slyly links Trump with Putin

Russian-American director Maxim Pozdorovkin delivers a sly slow-burning oddity in this documentary… Read more

Richard Linklater on Last Flag Flying: 'We're not meant to kill. We're not cut out for it'

In the quest to make the perfect film for the age of Trump, some strive for success and others… Read more

The Tale review – stunning sexual abuse drama is the mother of all #MeToo movies

I’ve attended the Sundance Film Festival for about a decade and, until now, there’s always been a… Read more

Generation Wealth review – moneyed elite get skewered in mixed documentary

Lauren Greenfield skewered the fall from grace of two members of America’s moneyed elite in the… Read more

Lizzie review – juicy role for Chloe Sevigny in gruesome lesbian axe-murder yarn

I’ll confess that, beyond the little nursery rhyme, I didn’t know too much about the story of… Read more