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Film / Rififi

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L-R: Jo, Mario, Tony, César

Rififi (French: Du Rififi Chez les Hommes, meaning "Trouble Among the Men") is a 1955 French Caper crime drama adaptation of Auguste Le Breton's novel of the same name, directed by American filmmaker Jules Dassin.

Tony (Jean Servais) is a down-on-his-luck con who has just gotten out of jail after serving a five-year sentence for jewel robbery. He took the rap and didn't betray his old partner, Jo. Jo approaches Tony with a plan he's cooked up with his friend Mario, to commit a smash-and-grab robbery of the jewels on display at a Paris jewelry store. They recruit César, a safe cracker (played by director Jules Dassin), and pull off a daring and intricate heist that yields them jewelry worth 240 million francs. However, César's lack of caution after the robbery leads to disaster.

Compare 1970 film Le Cercle rouge, also in French, also being about The Caper to rob a jewelry store, also featuring an extended robbery sequence with no dialogue.


This film provides examples of:

  • Almost Dead Guy: One of the baddies lives long enough to tell Grutter that Tony came around to seize the kid. Then he dies.
  • Anti-Hero: Tony, the protagonist and "good guy", who beats his ex-girlfriend with a belt and kills three people.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of the male cast does.
  • Big Bad: Pierre Grutter is a remorseless killer.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The baddies are downright evil but the protagonists are criminals none the less.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: How their fencer pays Tony and the gang for the jewels, naturally.
  • Broad Strokes: Jules Dassin has admitted that he hated the original novel, so he had few qualms about making big, sweeping changes to bring the story to the screen. The novel was more focused on the conflict with the rival gangsters (with racist overtones to the conflict, since said rivals were Arabs and North Africans), and the robbery was a minor subplot that only took 10 pages. That robbery was the only part that grabbed Dassin, so he expanded it until the planning and execution took up 45 minutes of screen time. Everything besides the robbery, Dassin trimmed down significantly, completely cutting several scenes with disturbing content like necrophilia. And he Race Lifted the rival gangsters to make them French instead.
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  • The Caper: Breaking into a jewelry store and stealing the diamonds therein.
  • Caper Crew:
    • The Mastermind / The Driver: Tony.
    • The Partner in Crime: Mario.
    • The Burglar: César.
    • The Muscle: Jo.
  • The Chanteuse: Viviane, César's girlfriend, who sings the title song.
  • Cutting the Knot: The jewel shop is protected by a state-of-the-art alarm system, which will go off if it detects vibrations in the floor or walls—or if any of its wires are cut, or its main case is pried open. Tony realizes there's no way to prevent the alarm from activating during the heist, so instead he prevents anyone from hearing the bell, by using fire extinguisher foam to muffle its sound.
  • Determinator: The dying Tony is still able to pick up his godson Tonio and drive him home.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In French crime films of the 1950s, it is common for the protagonist to have spent four or five years in jail. There is a critical consensus that this is a reference to the German occupation of France in World War Two.
  • Downer Ending: Almost the entire cast ends up dead. And nobody gets the money, either.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: The jewelry heist is big news the next morning.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Grutter takes the Idiot Ball when he missed to check on Tony after giving him a gut shot.
  • Fanservice: There's Ida's Of Corsets Sexy scene, and there's a later scene where she strolls in wearing a see-through bra to greet the gang.
  • Fatal Flaw: César's love for women brings the whole caper down.
  • Honor Among Thieves: César spills the beans to Grutter, but only at the point of a gun. The other three are friends and stick together.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: The kid for the money.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The whole series of disasters is kicked off when César gives a ring from the heist to his girlfriend, the day after the robbery.
    • The final tragedy ensues when Jo ignores Tony's warning to not give the ransom money to Grutter, as Grutter will simply kill him. Jo does it anyway, and Grutter does indeed kill him.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Gentleman César does this to Viviane when they first meet.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Tonio turns out to be the only surviving major male character.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: As a sign of Tony's poor health condition after going through jail. It doesn't actually lead to his death, but it's implied that Tony has a Your Days Are Numbered feeling and wants to pull One Last Job for that reason.
  • Meta Casting: Prior to this movie, Jean Servais' acting career had slumped due to alcoholism, and he was widely considered a has-been. Thus he brought a believable note of bitterness and desperation to his portrayal of Tony, a gangster considered a has-been by his peers.
  • Not Quite Dead: Tony gets shot by Grutter and collapses. But shortly after, he gets back up and shoots Grutter dead, retrieving the Briefcase Full of Money from his corpse. However, he's still fatally wounded; as he drives Jo's son back home, he slowly succumbs to blood loss.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: A little bit of fanservice in which Mario is introduced being given a bath by Ida, who very nearly pops out of her corset.
  • Only One Name: Three of the four thief protagonists are just known by their first name and where they're from: Tony the Stéphanois, Jo the Suédenois, and César the Milanais. The only one of the bunch with a first and last name is Mario Ferrati.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Jo falls victim to this trope. Tony misses to communicate to him that he is about to get to the hide-out where Jo's son was held captive. Jo then decides to quit the waiting game and go through with the Hostage for MacGuffin transfer which eventually cost his life while his son was already saved by Tony.
  • Pretty in Mink: Mado wear a glamorous fur coat.
  • Race Lift: In the original novel, the rival gangsters were all dark-skinned Arabs and North Africans. Jules Dassin didn't like the racism of that premise, so he changed to rivals to white Frenchmen in his version, giving their leader the vaguely Germanic surname Grutter.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Many details about the robbery are based on an actual burglary case from 1899 in Marseille. The real life gang actually did break into a travel agency's office, then dug through the floor into a jewel shop directly below, and even used an umbrella to catch their debris.
  • Safecracking: César's role with the gang. He's brought into the caper after Tony insists on a big safe robbery instead of a simple smash-and-grab of the goods in the window. Notably, he uses the less glamorous but more realistic method of drilling through the back of the safe, rather than sussing out the combination.
  • Silence Is Golden: One of the more memorable uses of this trope in movie history. The entire heist sequence, which runs a full half-hour, takes place without any dialogue.
  • Slashed Throat: How the Grutters dispose of Mario and Ida.
  • Stage Name: Director Jules Dassin plays the role of César, but is listed in the credits as Perlo Vita for that part.
  • Take That!:
    • The whole plot point of César talking, and then getting whacked by Tony, is often interpreted by scholars as this against the "friendly witnesses" whose cooporation with the HUAC resulting in the blacklisting of such folks as...director Jules Dassin.
    • Producer Henri Bérard suggested making the rival gangsters Americans, but Jules Dassin felt that kind of "oblique revenge" was a little too much.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Louise tells this to Jo when their son is kidnapped.
    Louise: There's something I always wanted to tell you. There are kids, millions of kids who've grown up poor. Like you. How did it happen? What difference was there between them and you, that you became a hood, a tough guy, and not them? Know what I think, Jo? They're the tough guys, not you.
  • Title Drop: It's the title of the theme song, sung by Viviane (Magali Noel.)
  • Undying Loyalty: Between Tony and his old friends. Unfortunately, César would rather talk to save himself.
  • Villain Protagonist: The protagonists are a group of criminals.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Tony whipping Mado.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Tony suspects the Grutters will eventually have Tonio killed since he's a potential witness, so he decides to jump into action.


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