Two Men in Town Blu-ray Review
“I’ll never see the law in the same light again. I feel that I’ve discovered a hidden side of the law. There’s the legal system, procedure, the almost theatrical aspect of the law. And then behind all that…”
Those words are expressed by Germain Cazeneuve (Jean Gabin, whose extensive filmography includes 1937’s PEPE LE MOKO, 1938’s PORT OF SHADOWS and 1958’s LES MISERABLES, in which he played Jean Valjean, a character echoed in this picture), a man who seems to ponder his existence with each step he takes. In the early scenes, he walks alone to a prison, where he serves as a reformer. One of the men he seeks to free from prison is Gino Strabliggi (Alain Delon, perhaps best known for his teamings with Jean-Pierre Melville and Luchino Visconti), a criminal involved with bank robberies as a safe-cracker. Gino is called irredeemable by the others in the room, but Germain sees promise in him, believing he can live in society as a proper citizen.
Germain’s case turns out to work, and soon after Gino is greeted outside of the prison gates by his lover, who has waited day after day for him. Tailing them is a trio of former partners who want Gino back in the mix. (The youngest, relegated to the back seat, is played by Gérard Depardieu, appearing in one of his earliest roles.) Gino is hesitant, though, and informs the gang that he is going straight. Instead, he finds honest work in a factory, where he can live a clean life and prove himself a contributor to society. But that doesn’t mean he’s not under the watchful eye of his old gangster compadres and a local inspector (Michel Bouquet, Yves Boisset’s PLOT)…
That it’s not just the thugs but also the men in blue keeping tabs on the recently released Gino says much about the overall points found in TWO MEN IN TOWN (DEUX HOMMES DANS LA VILLE). Writer/director José Giovanni (SCOUMOUNE) has clear intentions with his film: to put the shame and stigma not on those who make attempts to put their crimes behind them, but on the prison system. This is a film that seeks to explore the harsh conditions inside of prisons, as well as the guards’ treatment of the prisoners, who would rather kill themselves than live under their brutality.
The center of the film’s purpose is summed up when Germain says, “Even prisoners need taking care of.” This quote comes with a certain bias that the viewer should be aware of: Giovanni was at one point on death row and then had his sentence reduced. This accounts for some of the picture’s leanings, which will certainly irk a number of viewers. But that might be intentional, making TWO MEN IN TOWN all the more successful.
TWO MEN IN TOWN is the third and final collaboration between stars Gabin and Delon, who previously costarred in 1963’s ANY NUMBER CAN WIN and 1969’s THE SICILIAN CLAN, both directed by Henri Verneuil.
Video: 1.66:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This 4K transfer puts new life in the 40+-year-old film, with an overall healthy look that offers fine details and accurate colors.
Audio: French LPCM 2.0. Subtitles in English. The dialogue and Philippe Sarde’s score come through quite nicely.
Feature-length audio commentary by Jean Gabin biographer Charles Zigman: Zigman offers a thorough—although occasionally stiff—commentary that will please Gabin fans.