Something like the cinematic Birth of the Cool, Melville’s drollest, most likable gangster movie is set in the ‘50s, but it deliberately evokes Paris’s pre-World War II underworld. . . . It takes itself seriously, but as attitude thrillers go, it’s exceedingly light on its feet. The movie is a superb riff with a boffo finale, a terrific, cynical punch line, and a crazy closing image of Bob’s Plymouth on an empty beach.
July 24, 2001