Crimson Rivers 2: The Angels of the Apocalypse (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A couple of years ago I reviewed The Crimson Rivers, a very good French genre film which was directed brilliantly by Mathieu Kassovitz, brilliantly enough to make a spooky movie from a confusing and rather lackluster screenplay. Employing no irony, I compared the film to Welles's Touch of Evil. Based on the original, Crimson Rivers 2 seemed to be project with great potential, because the key weakness in the original had been addressed. The sequel was to be based on a script by Luc Besson, a master of juvenile fantasy movies, author of Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, Taxi, and The Transporter. Perhaps Besson could bring his touch to supernatural horror!

Boy was I wrong.

Focusing on the major issues only, this film has exactly the same strengths and weaknesses as the original movie. The director, although not Kassovitz, brought style and imagination in spades. The script is ... well, I know "dreadful" is probably an overused word, but it surely fits here. One of the French reviewers at IMDb summarized it perfectly (I have cleaned up his English, which was not as perfect as his analysis):

This movie is a shame. How dare Besson propose such a silly scenario! The dialogue is all clichés and Besson simply concatenates various unrelated gimmicks from different types of fantastic techno thrillers: religious themes focused on spectacular parts of the Bible, former Nazis who want to conquer the world, new-age evangelists, secret books from the so-called Dark Ages, etc. The global story is incoherent, the individual scenes connect illogically, and the end of the movie is totally stupid.

And I thought that reviewer was going easy on the script! He never even mentioned the fact that there is no character development of any kind, and you just won't care who lives or dies.

In the main, the direction is fine if a bit too frenetic. There are also some great stunts, and the team chose fascinating and spooky locales. If you are a history buff, you know that the French built The Maginot Line, a chain of fortresses and artificial waterways, to strengthen their Eastern border against German attack. The fortresses are linked together by escape and supply tunnels which employ dedicated subway lines, while the waterways are controlled by a series of locks and floodgates. It is very ingenious stuff, and this film makes use of all of those rusting fortifications for atmosphere, employing secret tunnels, camouflaged machine gun turrets, passageways filling with water, doorways which haven't been opened in years, spy towers which appear to be churches, artificial lakes which can be filled or drained according to necessity. The filmmaking team had some great ingredients to work with, and they added some impressive lighting and art direction as well as some complicated and proficient camera movement.

The film also had Jean Reno as a world-weary cop, and Christopher Lee as a French-speaking Nazi bad guy. (Lee speaks excellent French. I wouldn't know that except that the director points it out in the special features.) The DVD is filled with featurettes showing how the lighting and other effects were created.

That was a bunch of pretty cool stuff! In fact, it should have been a cool movie based on the picture to the right. Scoopy Junior's "Reno Rule" says: Reno + sunglasses = a cool movie. (Reno without the sunglasses ... eh ... not so much.) Yet this movie is terrible! Did Junior's theorem fail?


Reno only wore the shades in one scene, and they were not really shades, but simply cool-looking protective goggles. The theorem holds up.

Unfortunately, the director was saddled with a preposterous script. The film leads one to believe it will be some kind of apocalyptic or theological thriller based upon a man who seems to be the reincarnation of Jesus, and his twelve disciples who are being murdered one by one, leading inevitably to the end of days. As it turns out, the plot has nothing to do with the end of days. It is a bunch of ex-Nazis following some historical mysteries ala The DaVinci Code, in order to retrieve some stuff secretly hidden away in the Middle Ages. The Jesus guy has nothing to do with it, other than the coincidence that he and his disciples saw something they were not supposed to see, and therefore had to be killed because they were witnesses. The fact that they were Jesus and the disciples was ultimately irrelevant. They could have been The Village People, and the baddies would still have had to kill them. The Jesus Team thought the entire plot involved the Angels of the Apocalypse because they seemed to be stalked by faceless creatures with supernatural powers. It turns out (you are not gonna believe this, but it is really the explanation, not my exaggeration) that the creatures were a bunch of ordinary guys wearing monk's robes and blackface to make their facial features disappear. How did they get their powers? Just before the end of the war the Nazi scientists developed ultra-powerful amphetamines. Yup - the secret Nazi steroids! The same ones that Barry Bonds eventually used to hit 73 homers. Amazingly, the Nazis still managed to lose WW2 despite the ability to give all their soldiers super powers.

There were some scenes in this that were almost too irritating to discuss.


  • At one point, Christopher Lee's henchmen break into a room where Jean Reno and his partner are hiding. They are carrying massive WW2 machine guns with bullets about five inches long, and they use these to strafe the room. Now I think it is safe to conclude from these thousands of rounds of armor-piercing ammo fired in Reno's direction, that the Nazis wanted him dead, not captured. Right? So when the Nazis finally do subdue Reno by throwing sleeping gas into the room, do they kill him? Hell, no. They tie him up so they can tell him the plot! (And so he can eventually foil their evil plans!) It's just like a mid-1950s episode of The Lone Ranger!

  • Oh, yeah, how did Reno manage to avoid being killed by the powerful weapons? He turned a table on its side and hid behind it.

  • A bit later, Reno is tied, and is talking in his normal voice to his collar, where he has a transmitter hidden. In fact, he is even shouting into it as he gives directions and calls for back-up, because the officer on the other end is having trouble hearing him. Reno is also giving escape instructions to his partner, who is tied up nearby. Amazingly, ol' Christopher Lee does not find any of this suspicious, or even seem to hear the comments, although he is standing only a couple of feet away. Reno, however, can hear every word Lee says to him, even though Lee is speaking in a quieter voice. As you watch this, you will be thinking, "How can Christopher Lee not hear that?" While I was watching, I thought at first that Reno was talking to Lee, until I heard what he was saying and saw him turning his neck into his collar.

  • When the main room is flooded, everyone who is free is drowned, but Reno and his partner were smart enough to be tied up, so they escape!

  • Finally, as Reno and his partner plan to escape a flooding tunnel, they need to turn an old rusted wheel to open a floodgate. The wheel has not been turned since WW2, and will not budge. Our heroes seem doomed to die, except ... in an earlier scene, they remembered to pocket a few bottles of the Secret Nazi Steroids! Fortunately, they filched the Instant Steroids and not the inferior time-release kind, so the two men are immediately capable of getting that wheel to turn faster than Rumplestiltskin's spinning wheel in a barn fill of straw.


To make things even more irritating, the DVD box has an incorrect summary of the plot: "A murder victim has the same DNA as Christ." Interesting idea, although I don't know how you'd get Christ's DNA for comparison. Interesting, but unrelated to this movie.

So my counsel to you boils down to this: if the guy who wrote the DVD box couldn't follow the incoherent plot, what chance do you have?



  • Five Featurettes: Lighting. Weapons. Design. Corpses. Sound Design.
  • One deleted scene (with nudity)
  • Widescreen anamorphic transfer. 2.35:1
  • The Making Of Crimson Rivers 2 (This featurette is 70 minutes long!)



None. One woman is seen wearing a see-through nightie with a thong beneath.

There is a topless stripper in the deleted scene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed about $20 million in France, $5 million in Italy, a million in Germany. According to IMDB, this film was budgeted at more than $30 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. The director and the art director did a great job in many ways. Their work was almost good enough to make up for a completely absurd script, but in the last analysis the script was just too bad to overcome.

Return to the Movie House home page