Betty and Michel are a pair of French con artists. Betty has big plans when she brings in businessman Maurice, who is involved in a deal to bring 4 million Swiss Francs into France. As always with con artists, no one is entirely sure who is on what side and there are always people who want their money back.
During the course of this quaint and impeccably well-mannered comedy-thriller you are struck by the idea that Chabrol's 50th feature might just as easily be his 20th, such is its timeless elegance. It also appears so oddly dated that it could have been made at any point during the last 30 years. Herein lies a paradox the film never fully surmounts. Focusing on the picaresque exploits of a mismatched couple of con artists scamming their way around the country, the action begins with a sharply executed sequence which sees Betty (Huppert) and her older, gentlemanly cohort Victor (Serrault) parting a drunk, drugged and thoroughly duped businessman from his francs in an Aix-les-Bains hotel room. Having planned their next sting at a dentist's convention in St. Moritz, it transpires that Betty has bigger fish to fry a company treasurer and his case of international moolah though the move will eventually take the partners in crime across the dangerous path of the money's rightful and wrathful owner. Huppert and Serrault's perfectly synched performances effortless, enviable and embarrassingly good get plenty of comic mileage from the shifting balances of power within their ambiguously defined relationship, but are impeded by a snail-paced script which, for once you feel, could use less Gallic sophistication and more Hollywood lubrication. In a hit and miss bag of cosmopolitan wit, there's a near show-stealing turn from Balmer as an urbane hood with a love of Puccini arias and a nasty sideline in pierced retinas. His brief appearance amid a Lynch-like scene is an inspired flash of absurdity by Chabrol and, along with Huppert and Serrault's dynamism, it hints at a more distinguished, contemporary movie within a rather conventional one.
An interesting film, that shows flashes of brilliance but settles back into a middle of the road effort.