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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse (2004)

"A bizarre case. Guess who they send for?"
- Niemans (Jean Reno)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 31, 2005

Stars: Jean Reno, Benoit Magimel
Other Stars: Camille Natta, Christopher Lee, Augustin Legrand
Director: Olivier Dahan, Camille Natta

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:38m:44s
Release Date: March 29, 2005
UPC: 043396097070
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- C+A-A- B+

DVD Review

Les Rivières Pourpres (Crimson Rivers) was a refreshing and exciting action thriller, sprinkled with borrowed elements of Se7en, from director Mathieu Kassovitz, featuring Jean Reno as a grizzled investigator brought in to solve a series of bizarre murders in the Alps. This standalone sequel of sorts from director Olivier Dahan—written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon)—finds Reno's Niemans once again helming a strange investigation, this time involving a modern-day Jesus, dead apostles, the written word of God, knife-wielding super human monk assassins, the Maginot Line, and of course, a world-ending apocalypse led by none other than Christopher Lee.

As action fodder that all sounds pretty tasty, but the sad truth is that it ends up being a sticky mess that tries hard, but eventually falls way short of the mark; I would have expected so much more from a Besson script, and what gets delivered here seems simply geared to mimic the best parts of the first film, while offering laughable inane resolutions to key plot points.

The reveal of how the mysterious black-robed monk assassins, for example, can be such incredibly nimble fighters seemingly impervious to bullets is so far removed from any semblance of reality that I would have preferred a cheesy supernatural explanation over the ridiculous attempt at logical "science" used here. I can somewhat forgive weaknesses in certain spots if the rest of the film manages to hold it end up, but unfortunately there are so many similar head-scratching moments in Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse that I was completely unclear on the what was going on, and how exactly the apocalypse was supposed to happen.

Like the original, the story unfolds as two separate plots that quickly overlap, hooking up Reno's Niemans with scrappy newcomer Reda (Benoit Magimel, replacing Vincent Cassel in the sidekick role) and lovely religious artifacts expert Marie (Camille Natta) as all that stands in the way of stopping some vaguely ominous apocalypse. There are some decent action sequences, and a couple of dandy chase scenes, but I had a problem with the army of black-robed monks wandering through a well-lit grocery store without garnering a suspicious glance from anyone, at least up until the point they crucify some poor chap to the wall.

As an unconnected set of thrillers I wouldn't mind seeing another entry in the Crimson Rivers series, more specifically a better one. Reno, even in poorly written stuff like this, is at least worth the price of admission, and Olivier Dahan does a fine job setting a stylish mood. But the story here is mess, but the film's visual canvas (as well as the outstanding 5.1 audio mix on this disc) really made me wish the Besson script just plain made more sense.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in striking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Sony's transfer of Dahan's film is excellent. This is a very dark film, and rock solid black levels make the dimly lit interiors of the Maginot Line or the spooky monastery during the opening look clear and well-detailed. Keeping with the gloomy tone, colors are on the subdued side, save for occasional bright bursts here and there.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: There are two highly aggressive audio options (English dub or original Parisian French) both in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and both delivering deep bass and active rear channels. Plenty of directional movement to enhance the spatial feel, making this an exciting audio presentation that deserves to be attached to a better film. Avoid the English dub just on principle, and stick with the French track and the easy to read English subs.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
0 Other Trailer(s) featuring Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War, The Fifth Element: UE, Leon: The Professional, Vampires: The Turning, Wild Things 3
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The story might be lacking, but the extras almost make up for it. The Making of Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse (01h:12m:13s) is a well made, full-length behind-the-scenes look at the film's production—showing Dahan directing, set building, etc—and reinforces the notion that this must have sounded better on paper at some point than it did when completed.

A series of five shorter pieces, available individually or with the Play All, focus on Lighting (04m:43s), Weapons (06m:59s), Design (05m:23s), Corpses (04m:54s) and Sound Design (04m:53s). A single Deleted Scene (01m:28s) is set in a strip club, and aside from minor plot clarifying dialogue between Reno and Magimel, features some always appreciated nudity.

The disc is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

A sub par followup to very good action film, Crimson Rivers: Angels of the Apocalypse looks good doing its thing—and Jean Reno seems quite comfortable as Niemans—but the plot is confusing and fairly illogical. A above average sound mix might make this Luc Besson-penned thriller a little more salvageable, but in the end it all seems to make little sense.


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