The escapee/fugitive is known as Vogel (Gian Maria Volante). He ends up in the trunk of just released prisoner Corey (Alain Delon) and soon becomes his ally. Corey is on the run himself from his old crime boss' goons after he steals money from him. Vogel and Corey set about to steal jewels from a museum, eventually joining forces with alcoholic ex-police detective Jansen (Yves Montand) for the heist.
Mattei (Andre Bourvil) continues his manhunt. He's methodical, yet maybe a bit clumsy. Are his eluders smarter than he? What is director Jean-Pierre Melville implying with his 1970 LE CERCLE ROUGE, which follows several of his other stylish, curious studies of criminal code of conduct? There are many of his films for me to investigate and I do not know if there is a thread of this sort throughout them. But here, it seems that those who break the law are more honorable.
The criminals do not lie to or double cross each other, for example. They're quite loyal, in fact. A real brotherhood. Borderline bromance, in the modern vernacular. Mattei and his colleagues use more nefarious methods in their work. They do not hesitate to utilize informants, then humiliating and threatening them to achieve a desired end. They'll arrest them in their own club to make themseves look good. The loathsome Mattei will even create the false impression that an informant's son has committed a drug overdose, only to have the kid actually do it in all the confusion.
Melville fashions an absorbing, often exciting drama highlighted with another well crafted, virtually wordless heist scene. Masterful, it is. Sparingly edited. It follows in the great tradition of previous French crime drama moments ala RIFIFI. The acting is across the board superb, with Delon as the cool as anything criminal, a walking icon, I think. Montand once again impresses with his fine work (including a somewhat disturbing scene as he hallucinates the appearance of insects in his drab flat) as a down and outer who perhaps sees nothing left in life but to join the other two in their larceny. He might even see it as some sort of atonement for his life as a law enforcement official.