redits are a strange thing. The credits that roll after
the stars' names have flashed are inconsequential to the moviegoing public.
Hence, most people have no idea who, or what, a "Line Producer" is. A
Line Producer, in short, is the man who controls the purse strings of a movie's
budget. It is the LP's job to decide what gets put in the movie, what goes out,
or what gets compromised -- all in an effort to keep the movie within the given
budget. An LP is the best friend of the "Executive Producer," the man
who greenlit the movie (that is, he okayed the movie's production) and secured
the funding necessary to make said movie.
What does this have to do with The Crimson Rivers? I
am of the opinion that the LP for Rivers can be only two things -- either
he is utterly incompetent, or he was too afraid to do his job. Why do I claim
either/or? For one, The Crimson Rivers is a pain to watch, especially for
those with aspirations to become filmmakers themselves one day. What Rivers
does with impunity is to throw money at the screen. This is not in itself a bad
thing. Titanic threw $200 million at the screen and came away with a gem
of a movie that broke boundaries. Rivers, on the other hand, threw money
at the screen and came up with very little to show for it.
Take for example the languid close-up shots that begin
the movie, as we the audience are treated to a lovely close-up and personal
view of a young man's mutilated corpse. All of this is done in gory detail, with
bugs picking on scabs and gaping wounds and lacerations along the pale body that
must have cost a fortune to make. There is absolutely no reason to show us this;
yes, the murder is brutal, but in the scope of the movie and the absurd finale, this little money-spending effort seems wasteful.
Filmmakers are a strange lot. When filmmakers have no
funding, they rely on creativity to carry the day. That means
unnecessary shots are not even attempted, much less considered. A struggling filmmaker
can see the costs and potential costs of every scene they are considering,
so any scene that costs too much goes right out the window in order to actually finish the movie. Yet, once
a filmmaker has "made it," and is given carte blanche to make his
film, he will almost always indulge himself in unnecessary shots and set-ups
that would make a guerilla filmmaker cringe.
The money that is spent in
the first 30 minutes of Rivers is a travesty. Consider the scene that immediately follows the gruesome
close-ups of the body. We are treated to a long overhead shot of a car moving
through the French countryside. Yes, the scenery (once again) is very beautiful,
but the shot obviously cost a pretty penny. After all, it's not cheap to hire a
helicopter to follow a car down a long winding road. It is expensive -- and most sinful of
all, very unnecessary. Stanley Kubrick used the same technique in the opening of
The Shining, but that scene was haunting and unnerving. It achieved, in a
brief and continuous scene, a sense of foreboding by combining the scene with
atmospheric music. That one scene sets up the whole movie for us. What director
Kassovitz achieves with his overhead opening shot in Rivers is nothing
short of dullness, and does little but provide a backdrop for the credits to
It is no surprise, then, that while watching the movie
(especially in the first 30 minutes) I kept a tab on the movie's budget, and had
to keep adding and adding and adding... I kept seeing cash spent on useless and
unnecessary camera angles, set-ups that go nowhere, all done for the simple
purpose of trying to garner a "cool" shot. The results are not very
cool, but made me wish the director had concentrated more on his story instead
of moving his camera in a fancy way every other second.
The Crimson Rivers has a good premise, a good plot,
and very good acting by Jean Reno and solid supporting acting by other
characters. Vincent Cassel plays Max, a young cop who teams up with Reno's
Pierre to solve a serial killer mystery that surrounds a college in a remote
part of the French countryside. The college itself is an eerie place, filled
with perfect students and completely devoid of minorities. Needless to say, before Act One is over,
a swastika shows up.
As it stands, the movie's "surprise" twist is not
much of one. The murder mystery, in fact, is not much of a
mystery. I guessed the red herrings and figured out the murder before the Third
Act kicked in. So what is left if the mystery is solved halfway through?
There's the beautiful scenery, all shot in loving detail by Kassovitz.
Unfortunately, I wish he had spent money on better writers instead of taking on
the writing chore himself. The script is much too slow in spots and the
conclusion is wrapped up too neatly and without any sense of tension. What is
supposed to be an intense confrontation at the top of the mountain comes across
as rushed. It is almost
as if after having spent so much money on endless takes of the French scenery
and the college campus, the Line Producer finally stepped in and declared the
movie's budget bankrupt. The rushed feel of the ending is the result.