Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"This Man Must Die" is good suspense movie

Cleveland Press March 20, 1971

"This Man Must Die" is a movie about revenge. A small boy has been killed by a hit-and-run driver. His father vows to find the driver and kill him if it takes the rest of his life.

The picture is less the story of the search- the father stumbles onto the right path early in the film though it is months after the accident- than it is a psychological study of the hunter.

First he finds the girl who was in the car. Thinking she was the driver, he plans a love affair with her. The affair becomes genuine when he finds it is her brother-in-law who drove the car, but he maintains the fiction of simply wanting to meet her family.

The brother-in-law turns out to be the sort of unfeeling beast that everyone would like to kill. The hunter hesitates, even passes up a chance at allowing the killer to die in a chance accident. Another assumes the role of the would-be executioner.

Director-writer Claude Chabrol endows his w o r k with an air of ambiguity that sometimes enhances, sometimes hurts the movie. He works up to the meat of his story too slowly, then rushes matters along at the end. Long scenes of small talk are genuine to the point of being boring.

This is a French film dubbed in English and the dubbing is not always the best.

When Chabrol decides to move his picture along he comes up with moments that are interesting, almost stunning. He likes symmetry in character relationships and subtlety in plot development. He is, however, careless in essentials-where is the dead child's mother whom we are shown clearly exists, as one example?

Psychological suspense movies are rare and this one is a fairly good example of the type, good enough to overlook the flaws.