Newly released from a Marseilles prison, small-time hood Corey (Delon) teams up with Vogel (Volonte) — an escaped convict being hunted by Corsican police inspector Mattei (Bourvil) — and alcoholic former cop Jansen (Montand) for a big-time jewel heist at Place Vendome. Desperation sets in as they are dogged by cops, gangsters, informers, and in the case of Mattei, psychological demons.
Set in the seedy underworld of late ’60s France, this tense suspense film by Jean-Pierre Melville (“Le Samourai”) features a first-rate turn by Alain Delon, all cool poise as a handsome ex-con angling for the big payoff as soon as he’s sprung. The highlight is a near-wordless 20-minute sequence in which the masked trio pulls off a sensationally difficult crime with professional precision and true bravado. Melville keeps the pace taut and the atmosphere forbidding in this exemplary noir thriller.