Surely one of the coolest cats to ever grace the silver screen, Alain Delon has long been one of my favorites. With so many iconic roles spread across six decades, I still always picture Delon as the enigmatic Thomas Ripley in 1960's "Purple Noon." With his icy good looks, his dangerous allure might have been overlooked or undervalued in favor of more romantic leading roles. Working with the best directors of the French New Wave, however, this never happened. His best performances disarmed us and surprised us with his attractive exterior often masking a rather ruthless inner beast! One of the pleasures inherent in the DVD universe is that it gives you the opportunity to catch programs you'd never otherwise have the chance to see. As I really enjoy international programming (not to mention being a huge Delon fan), specifically mysteries or crime drama, I snapped at the chance to sample the French offering "Frank Riva: The Complete Series."
Don't get too excited, however, by the complete series moniker thinking that you'll be getting a massive set. "Frank Riva" consists of two seasons (shot in 2003 and 2004), each with only three episodes. The episodes themselves are approximately 90 minutes in length for about nine hours of viewing content spread across a three disc DVD set. And hopefully I don't have to mention it, but this is in French with English subtitles.
"Frank Riva" unravels as a typical crime procedural. After the initial set-up that introduces us to a complicated back story, the show falls into a more expected pattern. In each episode, there might be a peripheral crime to solve. But throughout the season, a more intricate story arc that brings Delon face to face with demons he thought he left behind 25 years ago provide more grit and character development. To paraphrase Pacino in "Godfather 3," just when he thought he got out, they keep pulling him back in! Delon plays a retired detective who is called back into service after the death of his brother. Going back to work, however, brings him back into contact with the drug syndicate he battled in a previous life. Reuniting with persons from his past (ex, daughter, former partner) and assembling a new team, Riva once again faces the treacherous Loggia mob.
1) The Man From Nowhere: A fitting introduction that brings Riva out of retirement and sets up the principle storyline involving the Loggia crime family.
2) Star-Crossed: Riva reunites with a lost love even as he investigates the brutal slaying of three Loggia henchman outside a trendy nightclub.
3) The Last of the Three: Riva's team is attempting to thwart a big drug deal, but must also contend with the abduction of someone quite close to him.
4) The Wolves: Continuing to seek an entry into the Loggia drug business, Riva follows a trail that leads to a South American connection.
5) The Red Angel: Acting on advance knowledge, Riva and team are tasked to protect a visiting judge who has been marked for assassination.
6) The Hunted Man: The tables are turned on Riva who becomes the principle suspect in the slaying of a police commisioner.
In the end, "Frank Riva" is both stylish and effective. It may not be the most original program in the world, however, and isn't necessarily one of my new favorites (although I did enjoy it). Riva is certainly a familiar archetype. A cop who isn't afraid to color outside the lines to achieve results, this rogue tough guy is all too commonplace. However, it's worth a look when he's played by Delon. An interesting addition to the Delon's impressive resume, you'll definitely want to check this out if you're a fan. KGHarris, 8/13.