Contriving the Red Circle, redux
In my opinion, director Melville had a jewelry heist idea in mind with this movie, along the lines of Jules Dassin's "Rififi", but ran into so many plot contrivances, that he invented the "red circle" as a device to gloss over all the implausibilities in the narrative. In that way, nothing really had to make sense, and the ends could justify the means (outrageous as they were). The idea of fate was handled better in his dreamlike "Le Samourai" since that was presented in more of an impressionist manner. In "Le Cercle Rouge" he tried to present fate as gritty realism and it didn't work as well.
*) The whole chase scene of Mattei after Vogel was laughable. First, Vogel crashes horizontally through a window of a fast moving train, then runs off with apparently no injuries (the "red circle" must have protected him). Then after what looks like a hundred or more policemen striding shoulder to shoulder through the countryside where Vogel had escaped, the cops come to a shallow stream with their scent-sniffing dogs, and not a single one of those hundred or so cops has the wherewithal to pick up the scent on the other side of the stream that looks to be only about 20 feet wide. And since that phalanx of authority was hot on the criminal's trail, why did said criminal take the time to strip off his clothes to cross the shallow stream? What, exactly, did that accomplish? If the criminal was intent on keeping his pant cuffs dry, why not just roll them up to his knees? Then, he had to hurriedly put the clothes back on once he crossed the stream. Vogel risks capture in the minute or two he takes his clothes off and then back on, though it takes only a few seconds to cross the shallow stream. You could conclude from this scene that all cops are idiots, as well as the criminal, on a Three Stooges-sized scale.
*) Later, when the police search Corey's Plymouth at the first roadblock, the cop looks in the trunk and stares at the bag (the only object in the trunk), yet decides not to inspect the contents of the bag, which contains the guns. In what world, would a cop have a trunk opened at a roadblock, but then not inspect the contents of the trunk? In the world of the "red circle," cops have lots of brain farts. And, of course, at the second road block, when another cop orders Corey to open up his trunk, there's a commotion with a driver stopped just behind Corey's vehicle- so naturally, the cops wave Corey through the roadblock so they can attend to the annoyed driver of the second vehicle- lots and lots of red circles protecting our protagonists. So it was, that the "red circle" magically brought together the two criminals, Corey and Vogel (Vogel finds Corey's open trunk), on the same day of their prison release, even though they have no connection with each other. And how did mob boss Rico's men just happen to come across Corey's newly-purchased Plymouth on an isolated country road? Yep, another red circle. Ditto, a prison guard who tells Corey on the day before his prison release, about a big jewelry heist that was ready made for Corey's talents- don't most prison guards inform soon-to-be-released prisoners about made-to-order jewelry heists?
*) How is it that when Corey and Vogel drive over to Corey's old high-rise apartment unit, the apartment still has Corey's property in it covered in dust and cobwebs? Do some landlords allow their units to go unlet, unkept, and with the same locks, for five years out of sympathy to a convict? Maybe it's a French thing- or maybe we're supposed to believe that Corey owned the high-rise? Oops, almost forgot- another red circle protecting Corey's interests- no need to explain.
*) At the denouement, when Vogel crashes through the window at the rendezvous to inform Corey (in Inspector Mattei's presence) that it's all a setup, none of the many armed cops outside the house converge to accost Corey and Vogel, or help Mattei who is clearly in danger- I know, another red circle.
*) Spoiler- The ultimate red circle occurs moments later, when the thieves are doomed. We see that the red circle was a double-edged sword- it brought the protagonists together and protected them throughout the numerous plot implausibilities, only to have it make quick work of them in the end.
Hey, I love Melville- I own all his gangster-related DVDs. Whether for film scheduling reasons or whatever, this one feels rushed and contrived.