5 July 2012 | Coventry
Belmondo: unorthodox, cynical macho copper AND stuntman!
Oh, how I love the raw and gritty 70's action cinema! Most of it was all about rude and extremely unorthodox macho police detectives hunting down utterly deranged psychopaths that leave a trail of terror and bloodshed throughout the most major cities of our world. The US delivered a couple of brilliant milestones in the genre (like "Dirty Harry" and "The French Connection"), Italy is probably world record holder with all their masterful "Poliziotteschi" classics, and also France proudly owns a handful of goodies. Henri Verneuil's "Peur sur la Ville" is a prototypic 70's cop thriller, and this definition basically translates into: high adrenalin action from start to finish, straightforward but tense plot lines, cool cops, nightmarish criminals, sharp dialogs, pitch-black humor and an awesome soundtrack! J-P Belmondo is absolutely terrific as the dry and sarcastic Commissioner Letellier, charged with the case of a misogynic killer who menaces his victims via the phone prior to actually strangling them. Letellier is initially quite reluctant to lead the investigation, as he's too preoccupied with catching the bank robber that killed his previous partner, but then manages to conjoin the two man hunts. The killer, who baptized himself Minos, is a delightful lunatic with one creepy-looking glass eye and a rather peculiar opinion on femininity. "Peur sur la Ville" features many recurring highlights, like the many sardonic interactions between Commissioner Letellier and his partner Moissac, but of course the most obvious aspect to worship here is the action. Belmondo literally bounces around Paris, from the rooftops of apartment buildings to all the way down in the subway network. One particular chase sequence lasts for nearly twenty minutes and includes both of Letellier's suspect targets. Making it all even more impressive is the fact that J-P Belmondo performed his own stunts. Gazing at some of the set pieces, I can assure you that he repeatedly must have risked his neck throughout this production. Nearly forty years later now, films like "Peur sur la Ville" may indeed come across as somewhat dated and overly clichéd, but it's still tremendously exhilarating and entertaining. Besides, back then those clichés weren't clichés just yet. It's just indescribably charming and fun to watch car-chases featuring those typical light European automobiles making random casualties left, right and center. The climax is tense, albeit a bit tedious and overly stretched, and you won't notice for a second that this is actually quite long for an action/thriller (+120min). Last but definitely not least, the always reliable Ennio Morricone delivers a dazzling soundtrack as well. Hearing his eerie tones during the opening credits, and you just know you're about to witness an overall excellent movie.