Rififi is argot French slang for “trouble/violent conflict/a brutal show of force, usually in reference to chest puffing and macho tough guy posturing by thugs and criminal element of Paris”, as iMDb puts it. It’s a film by Jules Dassin that takes a very small element from a novel by Auguste le Breton and turns it into a heist caper. Which is a good thing because the novel also included necrophilia, which probably isn’t my thing.

A noir heist movie though? Heck yea. Argot refers to a kinda secret language known only to a select clique, usually thieves or criminals. It’s not used in the film but in many ways, the hard boiled language so oft encountered in noirs can’t be that faraway either.

So the story centers on Tony, a guy who’s probably been a hood for way longer than he intended. He’s just out of the slammer and he’s pretty much broke as, playing poker and not really interested in anything even when his mates offer a smash and grab deal. Until he learns where his wife is, with another man. Now he decides he’s gonna play big time and go for the big robbery, cracking the safe and running off with a big stash of jewels.

So Tony gets his gang together, with his good mate Jo, an Italian Mario and another in Cesar, played by the director himself due to a last minute contract fallout with the intended actor. Tony’s pretty much in charge and Jo’s the muscle. Mario the flair and Cesar the safecracker. We get to learn more about each character as the film goes on and realize as it was always going to be that things will probably turn out bad.

The heist sequence itself is superb, at about a half hour long, it’s like totally silent. All you hear are muffled nudges, nods, hammers, prybars and drillbits. Next to no talking at all. It’s totally intense and had me hooked from start to finish, especially because of the constant introduction of police or delivery people or whatever that interrupts the work. Eventually the gang makes off with the loot but you can’t escape being all too human and someone just has to do something before the work is really complete, when the fence brings the cash.

So enter the final, third act, in which the gang dissolves by way of betrayal and carelessness. All that hard work, for less than what you started with.

Visually, the film is superb. It’s definitely one of those noir standard bearers for what noirs should look like. Drastic contrast in black and white and detailed scenes of Paris dot the filmscape. Like the shot below, which has Tony driving with his back facing the camera, Jo’s son with his smiling visage facing us and a suitcase fulla money next to him.