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The Crimson Rivers II: the Angels of the Apocalypse.

(LES RIVIERES POURPRES 2: LES ANGES DE L'APOCALYPSE)

(FRANCE-U.K.-ITALY)

A EuropaCorp Distribution release of a StudioLegende presentation of a StudioLegende, EuropaComp, TF1 Film Prods. (France)/Epica (U.K.)/Filmauro (Italy) production, with participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: EuropaCorp, Paris.) Produced by Ilan Goldman. Co-producer, Timothy Burrill.

Directed by Olivier Dahan. Screenplay, Luc Besson, inspired by the novel "Les rivieres pourpres" by Jean-Christophe Grange. Camera (color, widescreen), Alex Lamarque; editor, Richard Marizy; music, Colin Towns; production designer, Olivier Roaux; costume designer, Chattoune; soun (Dolby), Laurent Zeilig, Jean-Paul Hurier; second unit director, Mathias Honore; mechanical fix supervisor, Georges Demetrau; associate producer, Catherine Morisse; assistant director, Honore; casting, Olivier Carbone. Reviewed at Gaumont Marignan, Paris, Jan. 9, 2004. Running time: 97 MIN.
Niemans                        Jean Reno
Reda                      Benoit Magimel
Marie                      Camille Natta
Heimmerich von Garten    Christopher Lee
Jesus                   Augustin Legrand
Father Vincent          Serge Riaboukine


With: Gabrielle Lazure, Johnny Hallyday, Andre Penvern, Francis Renaud, David Saracino.

(French dialogue)

The Maginot Line didn't hold in WWII, but it holds secrets worth exploring in "The Crimson Rivers II: The Angels of the Apocalypse." Semi-supernatural crime thriller benefits from muscular execution of a script by Luc Besson that's more coherent than usual. Much of pic's template is so reminiscent of "Seven" this could be called "Eight," but despite many derivative elements, the creepy, suspenseful venture carves a satisfying slice of the genre pic. Original 2000 movie, a work-for-hire by Mathieu Kassovitz, did surprisingly well offshore, so title recognition and Jean Reno's fan base could carry this sequel reasonably far.

On a dark and stormy night in France's Lorraine region, a monk, freshly arrived at a sinister monastery, nails a crucifix to the stone wall of prayer cell 13. The effigy of Christ on the cross spouts real blood. Vet cop Niemans (Reno, reprising the role) arrives from Paris with a hotshot DNA and forensics team. They discover the fairly recent corpse of a man who was walled in alive.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, a customs clerk at a French airport is nailed to his office wall, crucifixion-style, by a faceless entity in a monk's hooded cloak. Meanwhile, police captain Redo (Benoit Magimel) and Iris fellow cops are driving back from a stakeout when an injured and half-crazed Jesus look-alike (Augustin Legrand) sprints in front of their unmarked car.

When Reda comes to the hospital the next day to check up on Jesus, he's told that "a priest" is with him. The priest turns out to be a faceless entity in a monk's hooded cloak. The ensuing chase between cop and monk is a thrilling human steeplechase involving rooftops, hedges, industrial landscapes and even a train. Although Reda is fit and determined, the guy on the loose in the burnoose possesses superhuman strength, speed and agility.

These scattered events turn out to be linked, giving Niemans and Reda (his former student) the chance to work together. Completing the investigative trio is Marie (Camille Natta), a pretty female cop with an advanced degree in religious studies.

Jesus tells the cops that the "seal" is broken and the Apocalypse is coming. However, in the great, tradition of courteous film scripts, it doesn't come any faster than protags can keep up with developments. The trio is confronted with the cascading murders of 12 "apostles" while counting down the seven seals and giving chase to a contempo variation on the Four Horsemen.

There is a fairly cogent explanation for all this murderous activity, superhuman strength and ticking-clock urgency. Those familiar with first pic will note a certain thematic continuity--Besson's script is "inspired" by the novel that bred the first movie--but current venture is free-standing and requires no prier knowledge.

Production design overflows with effectively icky settings, in which blood red and puke green are leitmotifs. Director Olivier Dahan keeps things moving at a swell pace, and the score by British composer Colin Towns reinforces the proceedings.

Reno is gruffly convincing in his reprised role, Magimel brings welcome shading to the sidekick part, and Natta is OK as the cop who's there to explain the ominous symbols. A nice turn by Christopher Lee, as a visiting German dignitary who speaks impeccable French, adds considerable class.
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Author:Nesselson, Lisa
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 23, 2004
Words:695
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