At the bottom of a gully, situated between a cemetery and a vast ocean, rests a corpse charred beyond recognition. There's a steering wheel in its hands, a wrecked car lying just a few feet away and a smile-inducing title that appears just as the camera zooms in a little too close for comfort: UN FILM DE CLAUDE CHABROL. It's easy to get wistful, since that's the last time we'll ever see those words (the prolific French New Wave auteur passed away in September). But despite the darkly funny opening, this star vehicle policier is not one of his best efforts.
Grard Depardieu nicely inhabits the title character, a middle-aged police officer on vacation who is visited by both his ne'er-do-well brother (Cornillac) and a mystery man (Gamblin) with a murderous story to tell. Chabrol elegantly interweaves the two threads, though the genre elements---heavily reliant on masked identities and avaricious motives---are less interesting than the pointed study of Bellamy's cloistered private life. Depardieu and Cornillac's sibling rivalry, which segues between mostly verbal smackdowns and liquored-up bursts of merriment, is beautifully observed, as is the relationship between the detective and his devoted wife (the wonderful Marie Bunel). The thriller stuff, by comparison, is just a lot of perfunctory deadweight.