Flic Story (1975)

aka: Cop Story
Crime / Drama / Thriller


Flic Story photo
Paris, 1947. Roger Borniche sees himself as the star cop of the Sûreté nationale, but he despises the brutal methods used by his colleagues. He has the opportunity to prove the superiority of his more humane, methodical approach when he is tasked with tracking down an escaped convicted killer, Émile Buisson. In the short time since his escape from a psychiatric hospital, Buisson has managed to settle several old scores and pull off some daring hold-ups. In spite of Borniche's self-confidence, capturing the ruthless Buisson will be no easy task...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Based on a real-life account by police investigator- turned- best-selling novelist Roger Borniche, Flic Story is a compelling crime-thriller, of the kind that was hugely popular in France in the 1970s. The glacial atmosphere, the attention to minutiae and the moral ambiguity of police and crooks pay homage to classic American film noir and you could easily mistake this for a film by the great Jean-Pierre Melville, widely regarded as the master of the French gangster film. In fact the film was directed by Jacques Deray, another well-known director in the policier genre, and is arguably one of his best films.

The similarities with Melville's Le Samouraï are striking - and perhaps a little too obvious, except this time Alain Delon is on the side of the law upholders, and he is anything but a gun-toting villain. In the opening sequence, Delon is dressed and filmed in almost exactly the same way as in Le Samourai - and, as in that film, Delon's character is shown to be a maverick loner who adheres to a code of honour which no one can force him to break. The intention may have been to wrong-foot the audience from the outset and thereby make Delon's character - an overly idealistic policeman - all the more heroic and sympathetic. It is a simple ploy but it works well - Delon is seldom convincing when playing the good guy, but here he is magnificent and has little difficulty engaging our sympathy.

Cast opposite Delon in this film is Jean-Louis Trintingant, another French cinema icon, who turns in an exemplary performance. Starting out as a cold anonymous killer, Trintingant's character is gradually revealed to be much more complex and humane. At the same time, the police who are pursuing him find themselves cast as the villains of the piece as they resort to brutality and trickery. As in Melville's films, the moral viewpoint is not set in stone but appears to shift as we get to know the characters and understand their motivations. In the end, the characters played by Delon and Trintingant acquire a kind of moral equivalence - each is the moral superior in his respective milieu. The duality that exists between the two characters is most keenly felt at the end of the film. When the State extinguishes Buisson, Borniche too is extinguished - each is the mirror image of the other, neither can exist without the other.

Whilst it may not have the unswerving stylistic brilliance of Jean-Pierre Melville's thrillers, Flic Story is nonetheless an absorbing, well-crafted example of the popular film policier. Its period setting lends it a quality feel and sombre mood, whilst its lead actors bring humanity and depth to the drama, setting it apart from the bulk of the 1970s crime-thrillers which tended to adhere to a well-worn formula in the American mould. Flic Story has an unmistakable touch of class about it.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


The director Jacques Deray also worked with the actor Alain Delon on the films La Piscine (1969), Borsalino (1970), Doucement les basses (1971), Le Gang (1977) and Un crime (1993).

Film Credits

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