Michel Piccoli plays a small-city vice cop determined to stop a major crime, even if it means planning the crime himself. He hatches a plot to lure a gang of two-bit criminals into robbing a bank, planting the idea in the head of a prostitute (Romy Schneider, at her saddest and most elegant) who’s close with one of the hoods. This 1971 French feature inverts the standard-issue police movie to fashion a complex moral dilemma: the solitary officer seems like a monster, while the criminals (who exhibit a familial sense of loyalty) become the most sympathetic characters. Claude Sautet cowrote and directed; in hindsight this seems to split the difference between his early crime films (Classe Tous Risques, The Dictator’s Guns) and the chamber dramas (A Simple Story, Un Coeur en Hiver) that
defined his later career. Also known as Max and the Junkmen. In French with subtitles.