Jules Dassin -- in his second European film after being driven out of the United States during the years of the house Un-American Activities Committee hearings -- directed this landmark caper film about the planning and execution of a nighttime robbery at a swanky English jewelry shop in the Rue de Rivoli. The story concerns a collection of thieves who band together to commit a seemingly impossible robbery. The gang consists of a tough, straight-talker named Tony Stephanois (Jean Servais); a young man under Tony's tutelage named Jo (Carl Mohner; a happy-go-lucky Italian by the name of Mario Farrati (Robert Manuel); and a safecracker named Cesar (the director Jules Dassin under the pseudonym of Perlo Vita) who likes to jiggle the combinations of women in his off hours. The set piece of the film is an intricate 28-minute sequence that depicts the robbery in detail -- all filmed silently without dialogue or music. After the success of the robbery, the gang barely has time to celebrate when a rival gangster, Pierre Gruuter (Marcel Lupovici), decides that he wants a cut of the take. When Tony's gang refuses to cooperate, Pierre kidnaps Jo's son, and the gang has to get tough with their nemesis.
by Paul Brenner synopsis