is a narc of Dickensian dimensions. After
undercover detective Frank Riva dealt a staggering blow to the French
Connection, he had to permanently disappear.
Dead to the world, he retired to his own island paradise. However, he is recalled back into service to
investigate a case that hits very close to home in the French television series
Frank Riva, now available in
a complete DVD collection from MHz Networks.
was his mother’s maiden name. The not-so
ex-copper adopted it while infiltrating the Loggia mafia clan and kept it
during his exile. He was always very
close to two fellow officers: Marc-Antoine Rezzoni and Xavier Unger. The latter is now the Chief Commissioner of Police,
whereas the former has just been shot, probably fatally, while leading an
off-the-books operation. Intimately
aware of Rezzoni’s backstory, Riva will take over his squad to investigate the shooting. It will get complicated quickly.
of Riva’s former underworld associates are quite surprised to see him. So is his ex, Catherine Sinclair. She also has one for him—he’s a father. Not with her, but with one of Loggia family’s
professional women, whom Riva became involved with as part of his cover. Essentially growing up an orphan, Nina Rizzi
only had Sinclair looking out for her, as a way to feel closer to her vanished
father. Unfortunately, the young woman
still got mixed up with Maxime Loggia, the possessive nephew and presumptive heir
of the recently deceased Loggia godfather.
As one might expect, the succession within the rebounding Loggia clan
turns out to be a trickier matter that will have repercussions throughout the
series—as will the circumstances surrounding Sofia Rizzi’s murder.
writer-creator Philippe Setbon sensitively conveys a sense of lives interrupted
and time lost, which differentiates Frank
Riva from the field of other gangbuster shows. While this occasionally leads to the odd
melodramatic excess (largely in during the second season), Setbon and series
director Patrick Jamain balance the micro and macro stories relatively
well. Riva is a compelling noir-ish
character, precisely because he always seems to have one foot out the door.
this is a perfect TV gig for associate producer, Alain Delon. The contrast between the older, weathered
Delon and pictures of his 1960’s dashing self (circa Joy House and Le Samurai)
add further poignancy. While certainly
still distinguished looking, his Clint Eastwood-like power to attract much
younger women seems somewhat dubious. Evidently,
it is good to be the star and producer.
Delon is appropriately steely in the lead.
Riva is also notable for
re-teaming him with Mireille Darc (co-star of Godard’s Le Weekend) with whom he had formerly been personally and
professionally associated. After a
rather overwrought introduction, her Sinclair eventually evolves in mature and
quite a cinematic cast, regular Costa-Gavras collaborator Jacques Perrin goes
toe-to-toe with Delon, painfully expressing many of the series’ themes of
regret and the corrupting power the past.
Frankly, the series actually picks up some of its best supporting characters
as it goes along, including Jimmy Esperanza, a Colombian cop assigned to Riva’s
unit, played with hardboiled understatement by Eric Defosse. Géraldine Danon also lends the proceedings a
striking corporate femme fatale presence as Swiss mob lawyer, Alberta Olivieri.
compulsive need to romantically match-up Riva’s subordinates stretches
credulity, but one can understand the impulse.
Whether or not it is wholly believable, Frank Riva ends with a sense of family and shared experience. Although it is a French series, it has a
pronounced Italian flavor (for obvious reasons) that should widen its
appeal. Regardless, it is just great to
see Delon doing his thing. Yet the music
might be nearly as cool. Largely
consisting of variations on Julien Chirol and Pierre-Luc Jamain’s title trumpet
theme composed, it has a funky but lyrical sound that could have been inspired
by “Time After Time” era Miles.
Tightly focused, there are no one-off cases in Riva.
Setbon usually has at least one big revelation for each episode that
often drops just before the credits roll.
It pulls viewers in quickly and builds steadily, making it a good
candidate for holiday weekend binge viewing.
Recommended for fans of Delon and double-crossing police dramas, Frank Riva is now available on DVD from
Labels: Alain Delon, DVD, French Television