Le Casse (1971)
aka: The Burglars
A film directed by Henri Verneuil

Genre: Crime / Thriller / Action

Film Review

Le Casse photo
Director Henri Verneuil followed his huge successful policier Le Clan des Siciliens (1969) with another film of the same genre, albeit one in a somewhat lighter vein. The film stars two iconic actors of the time - Jean-Paul Belmondo and Omar Sharif - and had a colossal budget of 15 million French francs, making it one of the biggest French films of the year. The film is loosely based on David Goodis' crime novel The Burglar, which had previously been adapted for cinema (in 1957) by Paul Wendkos. One of Verneuil's biggest successes, Le Casse attracted an audience of almost four and a half million in France alone.

This was the fifth time Henri Verneuil worked with Jean-Paul Belmondo - their earlier collaborations including the popular comedy Un singe en hiver (1962) and the uncompromising wartime drama Week-end à Zuydcoote (1964). Le Casse allowed Belmondo plenty of opportunity to indulge his insane passion for dare devil stunts (although some of his scenes were too risky even for him and so were played by a stunt double). The film's most memorable sequence is a spectacular thirteen minute long car chase through the busy streets of Athens, which was presumably Verneuil's determined attempt to trump a similar chase in Paul Yates' 1968 film Bullitt (which starred Steve McQueen).

Whilst it is easy to fault the film for its weak characterisation and lack of narrative (what plot there is can easily be written in longhand on the back of a Lilliputian postage stamp), its relentless pace, quirky comic flourishes and seductive thriller gloss (plus a great score from Ennio Morricone) makes it a compelling and entertaining romp. Omar Sharif makes a particularly nasty villain (admittedly of the camp, moustache-twirling pantomime variety) who comes to a deliciously gratifying sticky end in the film's second most ambitious set-piece scene. A must-see film for all fans of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Le Casse is a pretty respectable example of the kind of action thriller that was all the rage on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1970s, a forerunner of popular television shows such as Starsky and Hutch.
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Film Credits

Directed by Henri Verneuil
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Omar Sharif, Dyan Cannon, Robert Hossein, Nicole Calfan, Myriam Colombi, Raoul Delfosse, José Luis de Vilallonga, Renato Salvatori, Marc Arian
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