Jean Gabin is “Spencer Tracy” of France. And Alain Delon is perhaps “Warren Beatty” of the Gallic domain. The two meet in “Deux Hommes Dans La Ville” just like they did four years earlier in “The Sicilian Clan (1969). ” And it's again a fine cinematic experience to watch the two veteran actors, in almost a father-son relationship, carry this crime story from one end to the other.
Gino Strabliggi (Delon) is a former bank robber who spends 10 years in the hole. He is released before serving his last two years thanks to the enthusiastic vouching on his behalf before the parole board by Germain Cazeneuve (Gabin) - an about-to-retire “prison educator” who works for the Justice Ministry.
Once Gino is out, he wants to stick to a straight life. Marries the beautiful girl that waited for him for all those years. He finds a job as a master printer, a trade he learned while in jail. Things seem to be honky dory, with occasional dinners at the patriarch Germain's well-balanced traditional household.
But his karma follows Gino like tomorrow's bad news. He loses his wife in a freak car accident. His old robber friends are after him, trying to convince him for one more heist job. But true to the “reluctant hero” form, Gino refuses any and all involvement. There is no turning back for him, if he can help it.
There is another guy for whom there is no going back – beady-eyed police chief inspector Goitreau (played annoyingly well by the baby-faced Michel Bouquet). He is the cop who caught Gino years ago and sent him to the slammer. Now he is convinced that Gino is again up to another heist in Montpelier, the city where Gino is ordered to spend his parole period. No matter how strenuously Gino, Gino's printer boss and Germain argue to the contrary, it is impossible to change Goitereau's mind.
When it turns out that Gino's new girlfriend is actually working at a local bank, Goitereau becomes even more convinced that his misgiving is confirmed. Eventually, his insistent provocations and harassment of Gino are transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy, to his detriment.
Unable to withstand Goitereau's constant bullying and violation of personal privacy, Gino ends up doing the unthinkable and finds himself in court. An emotional defense on his behalf does not yield any results and he is sentenced to death by guillotine.
A French crime classic with bright moments but it concludes in unrelenting darkness. Recommended especially if you are interested in watching the last rites before a French prisoner is taken to the guillotine and the mechanics of the brutal execution itself. Not a cheerful sight. It makes one wonder if the guillotine is still allowed in the EU-member France. I bet it's not.
Ugur Akinci, Ph. D. is a writer with 20 years of experience. He is available for a wide variety of freelance assignments. Visit his web site http://www.writer111.com for more information on his services.