Jacques Becker, who did such a fine job in painting the turn-of-the-century apache milieu in Casque D’Or, brings the same care and psychological overtones to a film on the modern racketeer element.
Max the Liar (Jean Gabin) is an aging racketeer who has made a big haul in gold bullion and wants to retire. However, friendship, gang codes and women mess up this dream when Max’s best friend (Rene Dary) gets kidnapped by a rival gang, who will only release him in return for the gold.
The usual gilding of pretty girls, nitery scenes, gunfights and milieu talk abound in the film, but the element of keen insight into gang behavior puts this into a measured pacing which crescendos in a final well-staged gunfight. Becker brings this off in spite of a puffy story and some thumbnail characterizations.
Gabin brings all his authority and experience to bear in making Max a sturdy, noble crook whose code carries him through a logical series of actions, though Max the man is left a bit shadowy. Jeanne Moreau turns in a neat bit as a moll and Dary as the inarticulate aging Romeo friend is memorable.