I stumbled across the character of Commissaire Pierre Niemans (Jean Reno) in the first Crimson Rivers on Pay TV a while back and was captivated by his performance and the story in general. Being a big fan of Jean helped out obviously, but having heard nothing about the original as it made its way straight to video in this country, with most video stores at the time not stocking too many foreign films I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got around to seeing it. The easiest way to describe his character is as a Hard-Arsed grumpier French version of Inspector Morse.
Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse sees the return of Niemans investigating a series of brutal murders around Gay Paree that have a theological twist to them. While on the case he crosses paths with a former student from the academy now a police officer that has theological woes of his own by the name of Reda (Benoit Magimel) who ran down a man that bears a striking resemblance to Jesus Christ. When the two of them get in over their heads they enlist the help of a Theology expert Marie (Camille Natta) who is the brains between the two of them when it comes to all things biblical; and a damn sight better looking too! As the three work towards finding those responsible for these ritualistic killings, they quickly learn that the culprits are a bunch of Apocalyptic Angry Monks led by Heinrich von Garten (Christopher Lee) that are hell bent on bringing about the end of the world and reshaping Europe in the process.
The film is very stylised and features some snappy editing along with a decent score that will totally wrap you up in the intrigue as the film unfolds. However the film does stumble a little in the third act and limps to some sort of conclusion. The main problem being the length of the film, and the amount of plot points that needed to be tied up. The first Crimson Rivers was much longer than this, and had plenty of room to breathe. French action auteur Luc Besson was responsible for this screenplay distilling writer Jean-Christophe Grangé novel into a hurried 90 odd minutes. Ultimately you get the feeling that there are a lot of fans around, however not much dung being thrown at them!
The feature is presented in the wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16:9 enhanced. This is another top-notch transfer from the Sony DVD Compression Centre. In fact it's nearly flawless aside from some mild edge enhancement that was noticeable. With the majority of the films scenes occurring at night or in dingy dark interiors, black levels are rendered with ease and appear very deep. Colour detail is excellent also, with the palette pushed towards a yellowish hue helping to create an otherworldly feel about the film. Film grain is present throughout, which was more notable in the darker scenes but was not an issue.
The audio for the feature comes to us in two flavours. First the original French Dolby Digital 5.1 & an English Dub in Dolby Digital 5.1, the preferred experience being the French track which is accompanied by English subtitling. But for those that detest reading their movies the English Dub is ok, and is made all the more tolerable by Jean Reno & Christopher Lee returning to overdub their lines. Still as you would expect, audio synch is an issue with the English track and can be distracting at times with the voices not matching the movement of the actor’s lips. For this review I listened to the French track exclusively, then sampled the English track to make comparisons during key scenes. Both deliver an outstanding aural assault that will leave you grinning from ear to ear, safe in the knowledge that all those clams you shelled out for your Home Theatre setup were well worth it. Well that's what I'm telling myself anyway!
This is a reference disk that pulls out all the stops. Surround usage is near constant; from the thunderclaps at the start of the feature it doesn't let up! EX decoding enhances the surround experience. There are plenty of gunplay and action scenes that will have you ducking for cover as bullet's whip around the room, along with people getting thrown through walls etc. Your subwoofer will work overtime throughout this film, barely getting a chance to doze off. The highlight being the sequence involving Niemans car being turned into Swiss cheese as well as the climax that will send you around the house checking to see that the your China and windows are still intact. You've been warned!
A decent array of extras here will keep the film enthusiast who likes to know the technical side of things extremely happy. In fact there is very little in the way of proverbial back slapping EPK style of doco's here; instead you'll get a very detailed & lengthy Feature Length Documentary Making Of Crimson Rivers 2 (72:17) that features a lot of the scenes from the film and what it took to bring them to screen. This is one of the best behind the scenes pieces I have seen in a long time. There is no fluff here! It's presented in 1.66:1 widescreen, 16:9 enhanced with French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound, with English subtitling. The clips from the film are presented in their theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced.
Now excuse me while I break into my Late Night TV infomercial routine, because if that wasn't enough, we are then treated to a further five Featurettes, yes five, not three or four but five, consisting of Lighting (5:38); Weapons (6:58); Design (5:24); Corpses (4:54); Sound Design (4:50) . Each of these has interviews with the key crew members responsible for each of the areas covered. A good amount of information is related with very little overlap from the previous feature. Next up we have a tasty Deleted Scene - Strip Bar (1:28). Calm down you testosteroonies, it ain't as exciting as it sounds, however it does flesh out (no pun intended) one of the plot points regarding the mad monks. To top it off we have the obligatory Theatrical Trailer (1:48).
This film is an enjoyable romp of a thriller. It does bite off a little more than it can chew, by blending a curious mix of X files & Da Vinci code paranoia throughout. As stated before though, it does collapse under the weight of the premise it sets up. Featuring an excellent selection of extras, and a reference transfer, Crimson Rivers 2 is certainly worth a rental or a purchase if you’re a fan of the genre.