French crime dramas give Appellate Judge James A. Stewart a peek into Paris' vending machine banks.
"Just exactly who are you, Mr. Riva?"
Paris, to a DVD lover, might conjure up images of films like Amelie and Hugo. Let's face it, though. That sort of romantic image wouldn't hold up day in and day out as a television diet—especially if you lived there and were coming home to your tube from a crowded Metro or traffic jam. Now how about a cop show, albeit one with the Eiffel Tower in all the stock shots?
Facts of the Case
Frank Riva (Alain Delon, Fabio Montale) is reappearing in Paris after decades away from the city to escape a contract on his life. He's taking the job of a slain police superintendent in order to find the man's killer. He's getting to know police superintendent Lydie Herzog (Sophie von Kessel, Puccini) very well and heading up a team of young cops.
Frank Riva's six movies are on three discs:
"Star Crossed"—Frank recognizes the two old men slain by a masked assailant on motorcycle as former gunmen themselves. Frank looks up his long-lost daughter Nina, who's working as a stripper, just in time to realize that she's pregnant—and in danger!
"The Wolves"—An old friend of Frank's is placed into service as a reluctant hit man, just as an old enemy is broken out of prison. Meanwhile, two drug dealers have turned up dead.
"The Hunted Man"—That's Frank, after his gun is found near the scene of two murders. It's going to interfere with his plans to retire to an island paradise with Lydie, who's carrying his baby. Maxime gets a shock.
Viewers who check out Frank Riva will probably recognize the mysterious loner as a very familiar character in TV and movies. I last saw a similar character in Jack Reacher. Like Jack Reacher, Frank doesn't turn up on the computers and people just don't talk about him. He's tough, able to shoot a suspect down in cold blood, seemingly without a thought, and he isn't all that fond of rules; he'll trade cocaine for a kidnap victim. At first, the young cops he works with don't seem to trust him. He's also fond of the ladies—or rather, they're fond of him; at least four women really want to get to know him better in the opener. The ladies' eyes for Frank even show up as a murder motive once. He gets along with guys he put away like they're old friends, but has more trouble with the top police boss (Jacques Perrin, Z), also an old friend.
Alain Delon, who sports a ponytail and wears a jacket with T-shirt, plays the cool-but-haunted Frank Riva well, convincingly menacing a suspect but also showing a soft spot as he takes in a stray cat who conveniently shows up at his new apartment. The character softens a tad in the later episodes.
If you've watched any cop shows in this century, Frank Riva will seem familiar. The tape at crime scenes may say "Zone Interdite," but it's still a crime scene. It's a case-of-the-week series, with ongoing storylines throughout a season (both three-episode seasons are here). The supporting cast is familiar, down to the lonely police boss who falls for Frank and the beautiful computer nerd Juliette. The show's main villain, the seemingly aboveboard but shady businessman Maxime Loggia, also is someone you've seen before. The bad guys have a showy way about themselves. Dropping a body off at police headquarters to get the cops' attention is typical. True, it saves money on location shooting, but it's still very flashy. The "Never underestimate Frank Riva" sort of dialogue is stuff you've heard before, too.
Still, it works. Delon plays the familiar character well, giving viewers a rooting interest. You might end up looking forward to characters' weddings or getting worried at the teaser cliffhangers at the end of each movie. Even the cat has a mysterious backstory—Where did he wander off to between the two seasons?—that might have been explored had Frank Riva returned for a third arc.
It's pretty much a cop show in its look, but Frank Riva has a jazzy score and an occasional flourish that hints of French New Wave. The picture and sound are good, but there's an occasional freezing—very slight—as I watched.
There are no extras, save for two episode promos.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Somewhere—lots of somewheres—you'll be able to find a show like Frank Riva without so much reading. It's a French series, so it's dubbed on MHz Networks release.
If you're looking for Paris culture, you'll get a bit, but it's still a standard cop show. The cops usually get their coffee from a vending machine, rather than sipping it at an outdoor cafe.
There's nudity and profanity to go with the violence, if you're concerned about those things.
I started out making fun of Frank Riva as I watched the first movie, but I ended up liking it. The main audience, obviously, will be fans of Alain Delon, but if it sounds intriguing, you might just get into it anyway. The acting and pacing are solid, and the characters are likable. Still, it doesn't stand out, and you could just as easily pass it by without missing much.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MHz Networks
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