Mark Burnett
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It's murder finding love in the big city in "A Crime," a visually fresh and narratively catchy look at a meant-to-be romance hobbled by a few pesky obstacles. Manhattan and Brooklyn look splendid in wintry light as a lonely but determined French woman frames a man for an unsolved capital crime in order to get what she thinks she wants.

It’s murder finding love in the big city in “A Crime,” a visually fresh and narratively catchy look at a meant-to-be romance hobbled by a few pesky obstacles. Manhattan and Brooklyn look splendid in wintry light as a lonely but determined French woman frames a man for an unsolved capital crime in order to get what she thinks she wants. Emmanuelle Beart delivers a convincing perf in English opposite Harvey Keitel, generating troubling cross-generational carnal heat. Modest but effective little thriller world preemed in Deauville prior to a Toronto slot and Gallic release Oct. 11.

Vincent (Norman Reedus) drives to his suburban home to find his wife murdered. In the oncoming traffic lane the night of the killing, he had spotted a dented taxi whose male driver was wearing a bright red jacket and a large flashy ring.

Action leaps ahead three years. Vincent has moved into a small apartment and makes a living via illegal greyhound races on a Brooklyn beach. His across-the-courtyard neighbor and casual friend Alice (Beart) pines for him, but Vincent’s still grieving for his wife, whose killer was never found.

Alice does a little research and decides that if someone can be punished for the crime, then Vincent will become emotionally available to her. She hails a cab driven by Roger (Keitel) and sets about seducing him.

Deploying a winning mix of congenital beauty and the residue of hard knocks, Alice seems like a woman who just might get a charge out of down-and-dirty coupling with a grizzled guy nearly twice her age. Roger senses this is too good to be true, but there also seems to be an authentic spark between them.

Making hay en route to habeas corpus, Alice’s plan seems to be going well. But it turns out the “fatal” part of femme fatale is maddeningly fluid.

Vet d.p. Yorgos Arvanitis’ 100th film, lensed entirely on location in Gotham, is fetchingly lit with as many magic-hour sequences as possible. Co-scripter/helmer Manuel Pradal (“Marie — Bay of Angels”) opts for a blend of intimate hand-held lensing and haunting cityscapes perfectly enforcing an aura of wounded souls fending for themselves.

Keitel’s Roger is a mix of tenderness and menace who stays sober by tossing a boomerang out across the East River. Reedus conveys alternating waves of anger and resignation. Beart is both fun to watch and touching in the throes of her self-generated dilemma.

A few dialogue misdemeanors are the only major signal that this is an all-Gallic production. Score by Ennio Morricone is so spare, few would guess he wrote it.

A Crime

France

Production

An ARP Selection release (in France) of a Michele and Laurent Petin presentation of an ARP production in association with Alice Prods. (International sales: ARP, Paris.) Produced by Michele and Laurent Petin. Executive producers, Lionel Closson, Robin O'Hara, Scott Macaulay. Directed by Manuel Pradal. Screenplay, Tonino Benacquista, Manuel Pradal;

Crew

Camera (color), Yorgos Arvanitis; editor, Jennifer Auge; music, Ennio Morricone; production designer, Stephanie Carroll; costume designer, Michael Clancy; sound (Dolby), Ken Ishii, Pascal Villard, Cyril Holtz; second unit director, Fred Nicolas. Reviewed at Deauville Festival of American Film (non-competing), Deauville, Sept 3, 2006. (Also in Toronto Film Festival, special presentation.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Harvey Keitel, Emmanuelle Beart, Norman Reedus, Joe Grifasi, Lily Rabe, Kim Director, Brian Tarantina, Patrick Collins. (English dialogue)

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