Sometimes you see films that jumps out at you, grabs you by the throat and shakes you around. And Hope to Die is one of those, a French-Italo-Canadian...maybe co-production starring no others than Robert Ryan and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Not that it’s brutal or cynical film, it’s just that it’s integrity is so strong it couldn’t have been done in any other way. This is not just another normal heist-film/French-language hip thriller not starring Jean-Paul Belmondo or Alain Delon, this is something very special - maybe even a little bit magical.
We first meet Jean-Louis Trintignant’s character Froggy when he’s on the run, starting with a not so subtle reference to Once Upon a Time in the West, from what we understand is bad guys. He escapes and ends up interrupting a shoot-out involving some gangsters, lead by Charley (Robert Ryan). They think he’s involved with their enemies and takes him hostage. After a while they understand he’s not what they think he is, and the relationship between them all get more complicated. Suddenly Charley wants Froggy to help him with a heist, an impossible heist of course, and it gets even more complicated…
It’s a bit hard to completely explain the storyline of And Hope to Die, because it’s just one part cool heist cinema, the rest is an offbeat drama, close to surreal at times. One character, a supporting one, who stands out as extra absurd in the context of the story, is a woman who happens to be a real psychic and uses that against some other characters! It’s kinda dreamy and goes in a very special, close to poetic flow, with the fantastic chemistry of Ryan and Trintignant in the center of it. Around them is a small army of supporting parts, which are often played with bigger words and gestures, like the only ones who’s taking it seriously are our male leads - and the leading lady, a stunning Lea Massari. In another part we see Tisa Farrow, an actress I both consider very stiff and flat, but still hypnotic and with a great - but odd - charisma. I wish she would talk about her highly interesting career in movies.
One thing that came back to be while watching it was Quentin Tarantino, who MUST have seen this film at one point. He’s a self-confessed borrower to his own films and this film is no different from that. From the stylish gang of gangsters, the odd western-style theme, fast-talking supporting characters, a heavy actor like Robert Ryan, the overall feeling of being a lot smarter than similar films. But if you don’t like Tarantino, don’t worry, this movie was made long before he made movies and stands on it’s own legs without any problems.
I would like to discuss it more, but what’s extra interesting with And Hope to Die is the beginning and end, which is very cryptic. It’s a couple of children playing with marbles, but not without problems. What’s happening here? I’m not totally sure, but I think I know. It’s a bit related to 2012’s I Declare War, the Canadian coming of age film, but I won’t say more than so. It’s an idea I like, and shows in a very simple way what death, violence and crime is deep inside: a silly, stupid game.