Director Jean-Pierre Melville has built a solid gangster opus influenced by some earlier American types but successfully transferred to the local milieu. It deals with a gangster who finds that there is no longer honor among thieves – or policemen, for that matter.
A middleaged gangster escapes from prison and wants only to get away somewhere. But he finds his sister being blackmailed by some smalltime hoods and does them in, and then embarks on a last job to earn enough to retire to some tropical port.
The cool attitudes and flip jargon, used by both police and hoods, are reminiscent of Yank prototypes but jell well here. Lino Ventura has the right weight and honesty, albeit in a criminal way, and Paul Meurisse is a smooth, competent and ironically-tongued policeman more prone to use torture to extract confessions.
Played with intensity and gusto, with holdups done sharply, it has just that extra feel for milieu and character.