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Movie Review: ‘Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse’

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Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse

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A sequel to The Crimson Rivers, France’s Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse (French title of Les Rivières Pourpres II: Les Anges de l'apocalypse) was originally released in 2004. Although the original movie was dubbed in English (with lead actor Jean Reno participating in the English version), the sequel I watched was still in French (with English subtitles, merci). The special edition of the DVD does have English dubbing.

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Similar in structure to the original movie, Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse once again stars Jean Reno as Commissioner Niemans, a legendary crime sleuth who tackles the most baffling cases in France. On this outing, Niemans is teamed with Detective Reda (Benoit Magimel), a young detective with knowledge of martial arts who also happens to be impulsive, and Marie (Camille Natta), a plainclothes officer who is a specialist in religions.

The trio must contend with a religious conundrum that at first seems to have various supernatural elements. The story begins with Niemans investigating a murder in which the body was sealed up in the walls of an ancient French monastery. In the meantime, Detective Reda is working on a murder of his own. And when Reda pursues a suspect—a faceless man in monk attire—he finds that the “brother” has unnatural stamina, strength, and agility.

As with the first movie, the detectives come together and form an uneasy alliance, although Reda is an admirer of Niemans. Along with Marie, the trio begins to unravel the mystery of the monks, who are led by Heinrich von Garten (the venerable and iconic Christopher Lee). It turns out that von Garten is seeking a book supposedly written by God Himself. Standing in his way is another secret society patterned after the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). The monks are systematically killing off the apostles—they even try to kill Jesus, but Niemans and Reda come to the rescue in the knick of time.

The final reel of the movie has von Garten and his hired henchmen exploring an underground labyrinth where King Lothair II hid the book that holds the secret to a supposedly magnificent treasure. Hot on the heels of these bad guys are Niemans and Reda, with Marie keeping in communication via radio while she interrogates and guards “Jesus.” The movie dispenses the supernatural elements with some expository scenes (the monks hide their faces with black paint and use amphetamines to perform superhuman acts). Will Niemans and Reda fall into a trap, or is the whole thing an ancient trap set to spring on everyone involved?

Directed by Oliver Dahan, Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse fares better than the original film and should prove more enjoyable for viewers. Still using the flair and style of the original film, this sequel does not dispense with explanatory exposition, but rather Dahan ensures that such exposition is complemented by effective visuals. The explanations enable the viewer to understand the mystery, so that when the final reel is over, there is a sense of satisfaction. However, viewers must listen (or read quickly) to the dialogue, as some of it comes just before a nail-biting action sequence. The movie definitely delivers the action, as there are various set pieces throughout that will give aficionados of action films plenty to watch.

Although I was disappointed at the Scooby-Doo explanations for the monks, I still enjoyed Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse. The entire cast was a joy to watch, the writing (by none other than Luc Besson) and direction were taut and effective, and the movie easily blended mystery and police procedural with light horror and Hollywood-driven action. Here’s hoping that there will be another sequel, although it’s been about 10 years since Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse.

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