Monsieur Gangster (1963)

Lino Ventura, Bernard Blier, Francis Blanche, Claude Rich,
Les tontons flingueurs is a movie starring Lino Ventura, Bernard Blier, and Francis Blanche. A dying mob boss hands over his business to an old friend, Fernand. The boss' assistants want to get rid of the latter. But are the Volfoni...
  • 7.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Michel Audiard, Albert Simonin, Writer:
  • Georges Lautner, Director:
  • Irénée Leriche, Robert Sussfeld, Producer:


10 / 10

You don't have to be French!

It seems like everyone makes a big deal about having to speak french, understand older french slang, etc. in order to enjoy this movie. I know about ten words of French, and still found this movie hilarious.

To assert that the dialogue is the central virtue of the film does the actors a HUGE disservice, in addition to limiting comedy to merely spoken jokes and gags. Lino Ventura is a great comedic presence, which may strike many as odd, taking into account his more well-known "serious" roles in films like Francesco Rosi's "Cadaveri eccellenti," and Jean-Pierre Melville's "Army of Shadows." He is a very underrated, and often over-looked actor who could play comedy just as well as he could play seldom-speaking leaders of the French resistance.

Although I could understand a knowledge of French culture and language enhancing some of the nuances of the dialogue, do not be swayed away from this great film by the words of others declaring it is "too French." It is a classic comedy that transcends language barriers, and certainly serves as a great light-hearted companion piece to the many distinctive French gangster films of the era. Perhaps even surpassing many of them in sheer entertainment value.

10 / 10

Who's afraid of Lino Ventura?

For a number of years now they have fed us movies about the adventures of mutant superheroes (o.k., I admit I have seen and enjoyed one or two of them). This was preceded by the surreal Schwarzenegger-Stallone-Van Damme-decade (also called the eighties), with action-flick actors whose muscle mass far exceeded their acting skills. Before that, there was Dirty Harry and a wild selection of anti-heroes of all sizes, shapes and colors. But when, exactly, was it, that real men disappeared from the screen? The event that caused the extinction of such dinosaurs as Lino Ventura, Jean Gabin, Lee Marvin, Humphrey Bogart and the like must have been the counter-culture of the sixties. But what a loss it caused. We had movie-stars who were real, gentlemanly (sometimes), cool, human and funny as well as ugly but sexy and we went and replaced them with a bunch of guys in a mask and cape (and I don't mean Zorro).

Luckily we all have our VCRs and DVD players and blockbuster and amazon and are able to enjoy movies like Les Tontons Flinguers, one of the funniest, coolest and yet silliest movies of all time. Every actor a character, every dialogue a gem, every scene a revelation about how to make it look easy. Go see this film before you even contemplate to watch Spiderman III!

9 / 10

A work of art on the same level as a safe-cracker robbing Fort Knox with a can-opener ...

Now that French cinema surrendered to metro-sexual archetypes, a movie like "Monsieur Gangster" is one breath of masculine air to refresh those among us who stuck to the old-fashioned ways, when men listened to other men twice their weight, where a good face-punch was the most eloquent authority assessment, when roles-wise, the leader was the dealer, when guns gunned, silencers silenced and men shot first and asked the questions later.

If you're a fan of classic Warner-era gangster movies, of Tarantino before he imitated Scorsese imitating Spielberg, if you adore Jean-Pierre Melville and abhor the so-called New-Wave -this celebration of existential boredom committed by a privileged group of elitist onanists, defined as the new standard of the silver screen- "Monsieur Gangster" and his gang of buffers to please all the movie buffs, is tailor-made for you. So welcome to that exclusive clan! (Yes, that sounds like elitism but it's a reverse one, one that takes its stuff seriously enough not to take it seriously, even through the lousiest comical devices and comedic vices, just for the sake of a male-bonding good time).

"Fatheads dare everything, that's even how we recognize them" the line exceeded the film and became a real-life proverb, proved right all throughout the film, with this joyful gang of fatheads, questioning the authority of their new leader: Fernand Naudin, played by Lino Ventura in his comical break-through role. The film starts when Naudin leaves his provincial tractor's shops to meet an old friend, known as the "Mexican". He finds "The Mexican" in a deathbed and one last request: the poisoned gift that will give the film its irresistible spice: Naudin must take care of his business, including his daughter. Naudin soon starts wondering which of the racket, not-so legal, or the girl, not-so angelic, is the most insufferable.

However, we know Naudin is a man of his word not to the former lieutenants' pleasure, "you didn't take that seriously" asked one of them, "let's say I was wrong" dryly retorts Naudin. The cards are set, the antagonists are the Volfoni brothers Raoul and Paul, played by Bernard Blier, one of the most defining faces of French popular cinema, an actor whose presence enhanced every type of personality, and the droopy-eyed Jean Lefebvre, a sure value in the lovable losers' department. But he's the one who frontally threatens Naudin : "you prepare yourself for sleepless nights, migraines, nervous breakdowns as they say", the last one is said in English with a delightful French accent, only rivaled by Naudin's butler played by the Jean Gabin (literally) of characters actors: Robert Dalban.

To complete this irresistible ensemble, there is Maitre Folace, a meek and polite lawyer played by Francis Blanche, eager to protect his master's interest no matter what. His "don't touch the money, you bitch" outburst, with tickling eyes betraying a menacing nervousness, followed by a shot on Blier and Ventura, staring at the "bitch" as if their eyes pointed guns is one of the film's most hilarious moments, proving that none is to be underestimated. Yet Raoul spends half the time being punched in the face by Naudin (the film's trademark, always followed by catchy banjo music) and the other half stating that he won't take it anymore. The villains are so laughable that the film needed a German killer to keep a cloud of danger floating on Naudin's solidly-built shoulders, but it never distracts from the comedy.

The film was directed by George Lautner, who signed one of the most memorable French gangster films (including "The Professional") but it's mostly praised for its writing by Michel Audiard, the street-wise dialog-expert who gave an indelible magic poetry to Parisian slang, making him the Rimbaud of Vulgarity. Audiard is probably the most likely writer to be lost into translation, hence my fear that subtitles might kill the experience of "Monsieur Gangster", if only for the little bits in English uttered by the scene-stealing butler. Still, it's impossible to resist the dialogues, whose charm transcended generations and became catchphrases in French Pop-Culture. In one of Audiard's other written films, a woman wants to go to Rio with her boyfriend, "We don't bring sausages when we go to Frankfurt" is his laconic reply.

That's the Audiard touch; it's a man's world, made of acid dialogues and muscular confrontations. The film does lose its pace at parts, the girl, the German gangster, the soon-to-be son-in-law, played by Claude Rich, suffer by comparison with the glorious cast, but the film is redeemed by some brilliant pieces of acting and writing, immortalized in the mythical kitchen scene when the four men challenge themselves to drink one tough liquor. Lino Ventura feared that scene because he would challenge other actors used to comedy... well, the look on his face after the first drop probably cleared his doubts. Watching these four giants, speaking of alcohol, money and women is indeed the highlight of the film. And I learned that after the shooting, Ventura came back home and told his wife "we finally made it!" and from his relief, it didn't feel as they've been drinking chamomile.

Surprisingly, the film met with poor reception, abandoned by a youth, brainwashed by the Cinema's Cahiers and the Nouvelle Vague, before they realized the Emperor was as naked as Brigitte Bardot in any film she did. And if "Monsieur Gangster" was loathed by the critics, today, it's an indisputable classic of French cinema, all it took was Audiard's writing and French actors with talent as huge as their noses. A breed of men that can only invite for a sorrowed observation : "they don't make like this anymore"

So, if subtleties in subtitles, 'bang bang' in slang and Frenchy frenzy give you allergy, "Monsieur Gangster" might not be the wisest choice, no sir. This is one hell of an evening, so froggy it'll leave you groggy.

10 / 10

The greatest firework...

What is so special about this movie ? Its density... It lasts about two hours, and you don't have any time to breathe, because of the intelligence, and the spirit of every quote. It is a shame that there are no exemples of quotes from it on this site, it would make you laugh just to read them. Under the appearance of a classic dark detective movie, it is one of the funniest comedy ever made. The only thing is that, to keep the atmosfear, you ought to see it in original version (french). But, for Audiard and his humor, for Launtner and his inspired direction, and, most of all, for the actors (especially Bernard Blier) everybody in the whole world must see it at least once. One of the greatest french movies ever made (and God knows the quality of the french cinema) !

10 / 10

A master piece / chef d'oeuvre!!!

Les Tontons flingueurs is a real master piece! Audiard was a genius writing in "green language" (la langue verte, slang from 50's/60's full of sharp metaphor) its really irresistible.... Unfortunately this movie cannot be translated, too bad it deserve at least 10 oscars! for acting / senario / directing / etc... JP nyc