The Sicilian Clan – Keeping Your Cool

Country: France
Genre: Suspense
Director: Henri Verneuil
Year: 1969

Rating: ★★★★½


Here is a movie with hardly any action. Nobody so much as raises their voice. And yet it’s nail bitingly suspenseful.

All of the elements of The Sicilian Clan with the exception of the music score (more on that in a minute) work together, but the success of the picture really hinges on a superb script by Henri Verneuil, José Giovanni, and Pierre Pelegri, based on the novel by Auguste Le Breton.

The dialog is dry and intelligent, the plotting is like clockwork and always surprising, and there is architectural suspense built in every step of the way. One of the most gratifying elements of The Sicilian Clan is that almost all the characters are intelligent: both crooks and cops. Nobody makes a boneheaded move (intellectually at least) during the whole movie.

The actors do their part, especially Jean Gabin, as the patriarch of the Manalese family and Alain Delon as the hot blooded Roger Sartet. Here we have two generations of ultimate cool. Gabin is never ruffled, even in circumstances that would reduce most men to quivering jelly. Delon is unflappable, too, but mostly because of a supreme confidence in his ability to wiggle his way out of any situation, no matter how dire.

Henri Verneuil directs in a classic style, always unhurried, but undeniably elegant.

The only element of the picture that doesn’t work is Ennio Morricone’s score, one of his weakest. The themes and orchestration aren’t up to the sophistication of the rest of the picture, but what really kills the score is the incessant plucking of a Jews harp, which feels left over from a comic spaghetti western.

But never mind that. Provided that you can settle into the slower rhythms of The Sicilian Clan, at least compared to the mindless MTV pacing of modern films, you should have a blast.

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