Jean-Pierre Melville introduces Alain Delon’s character in 1970’s Le Cercle Rouge just as he did in 1967’s Le Samouraï – with the actor slumbering on a bed. Such a gesture not only links Melville’s two Delon-embodied protagonists as kindred alienated antiheroes, but immediately marks the director’s second-to-last film as yet another of his cooler-than-cool existentialist crime pics. The story of a heist organized and perpetrated by just-paroled thief Corey (Delon), fugitive-on-the-run Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté) and alcoholic ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand), Melville’s tightly focused epic is the epitome of neo-noir stylishness, an entrancingly fatalistic love letter to tough guys and the meticulous precision with which they carry out their unlawful activities. Whether expertly choreographing the central jewelry joint swindle or simply reveling in Delon’s stoic elegance, Melville’s film is a paean to masculinity (the only women who appear are either traitorous vixens or floozy showgirls) and an exercise in genre efficiency. And in the character of Montand’s Jansen – who suffers through nightmarish DTs (replete with visions of creepy-crawly creatures swarming his bedridden body) and then sacrifices his share of the loot after preparations for the burglary cure him of his addictive thirst – Le Cercle Rouge also hints, until its typically pessimistic conclusion, at the therapeutic benefits derived from a devotion to ritualistic occupational craftsmanship.