The Burglars Blu-ray Review: Some Great Action Set Pieces

The Burglars opens with a long, mostly silent, jewel heist. It is reminiscent of a similar scene in Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955). Except here, our thieves are more technologically inclined. They use a fancy computer doohicky to crack the safe’s complicated locks. It is a good scene, except that coming at the very beginning of the film there is no tension to it. We don’t know what they are attempting to steal, or from whom. We don’t know any of the burglars, or why they are stealing these jewels. They are led by a man we’ll later learn is called Azad. He’s played by Jean-Paul Belmondo who is so charismatic no matter who he’s playing I can’t help but root for him. But the scene didn’t do anything for me. I can’t help but think that if it had come later in the film I’d been much more interested.

Buy The Burglars Blu-ray

The film as a whole is like that. There are several good set pieces but the connective tissue just doesn’t work for me. I never found the characters or what they get up to all that interesting.

After Azad and his pals steal some emeralds from that safe, they rush to the shore where they are supposed to catch a ride on a merchant ship where the captain has been paid off to not notice them. Unfortunately, the ship has undergone some damage and will need five days of repair work. Knowing that their heist will make the morning papers and this will keep any other captains from letting them board, the gang decides to hide out in Athens until their ship can be repaired.

During the heist, Police Detective Abel Zacharia (Omar Sharif) notices the thieves’ car parked on the street outside the house and gives it a once-over. Azad plays it cool and pretends to be a toy salesman whose car broke down. Abel lets him go but remembers his face. They’ll spend the rest of the film in a kind of lazy cat-and-mouse game. Abel regularly catches up to Azad and chats with him, but without proof Azad stole the emeralds (or really without knowing where the emeralds have been hidden – for he wouldn’t mind getting his hands on them himself for his own personal gain), he can’t make an arrest.

Still, there are several chase scenes including an incredible (and incredibly long) car chase through the streets of Athens that is quite exciting. Plus one in which Azad jumps from bus to bus hanging onto the windows from the outside, and another in which he falls from a great height. These scenes are the reason to watch the film. They are all quite exciting, especially since Belmondo did most of his own stunts.

All the stuff in between I found rather dull. The rest of the gang gets rather short shrift. The two men get very little screen time, so little that I can hardly remember anything about them. The woman, Helene (Nicole Calfan), is something of a love interest but the film is barely interested in her at all. There is another love interest played by Dyan Cannon but the film is only slightly more interested in her.

It is fully Belmondo and Sharif’s film. I like both actors and they are quite good here. But outside of those chase scenes (and a really good final confrontation), the script doesn’t know what to do with them. I feel like if you watch this as a dumb action film you can enjoy the set pieces and zone out during the drama. That’s good enough for me.

The film reportedly was shot twice – once in English and once in French. I watched the “International Version” A quick perusal of the “American Version” indicates that both versions are largely the same. In fact all of the scenes I compared are exactly the same. I can’t imagine they shot the action sequences twice and large swaths of the film are without dialogue so presumably those scenes are the same. The “American Version” is roughly ten minutes shorter so clearly, there are some differences, but not enough to really matter.

Posted in , ,

Mat Brewster

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter