Jean-Claude (Depardieu) and cohort Pierrot (the late Dewaere) are a pair of young, handsome, filthy thugs. Financed by picked pockets and snatched purses, they giggle in delight as they assault and harrass poor innocents.
Depardieu and Dewaere excel as a couple of brazen street thieves. Even when a victim of their crime spree threatens them with a gun, they roll their eyes in exasperation and kidnap his girlfriend for good measure. But they're in for a shock now: their captive Marie-Ange (Miou Miou), totally indifferent to her plight, almost falls asleep while they take turns raping her! Insulted, Jean-Claude and Pierrot decide to dump the dumb blonde and hit the road in search of a real woman, willing or otherwise.
In this crass, course vein our two "Valseuses" (French slang for "balls") lope off in what might seem at first to be a morally bankrupt tale of violence and decadence. But, surprise surprise, as we roll along with our hoodlums, carousing, quarrelling, we begin to forgive the unforgiveable - not because they glamourise the violence, ala Butch and Sundance or Bonnie and Clyde - on the contrary. In this gritty world there is no glamour, indeed no class. The only possible goal in their simplified human condition is joy, and joy is found in the senses, sex, laughter, adventure, mischief. Ultimately they're just rowdier versions of the same restless adolescents we used to be, for better or worse, and some of their basest deeds answer impulses we ought to admit we still have ourselves.
It is at these moments when we recognise our own delinquency in these caricatures while secretly celebrating the naughtinessof it all along with them that Les Valseuses transcends into poetry. Add to that a uniquely footloose script that rolls along past tragedy and comedy just as aimlessly as its two joy riders, sparkling performances from everyone, a persuasive grace in so many fine set pieces, and you'll agree that this is still a genuinely rare treat 18 years after its first release.
No wonder this film catapulted Depardieu and writer/director Blier into the major status they've enjoyed ever since. A treat.