The loot of the title is a load of gold bars stolen from an airport by a two-man gang, Max (Jean Gabin) and Riton (Rene Dary). Max is honored throughout the "milieu," the Parisian underworld; he's in demand as an arbiter of disputes among criminals. Riton isn't quite as well respected. Sometimes Max himself wonders if he's just been carrying his pal in recent years. Riton isn't quite as bright, either. He blabbed about a big score he'd made to his fickle girlfriend Josy (Jeanne Moreau), who blabbed about it to her boyfriend on her side, the drug dealer Angelo (Ventura). Angelo has just made a big show of his respect for Max, but he needs money and wants that loot. From this point the story is pretty simple. Riton eventually falls into Angelo's clutches. Angelo expects Max to give him the loot in return for Riton. Max thinks about letting Riton pay for his foibles, then thinks better of that. He has a plan to save Riton and the loot, but there's no guarantee that he'll get either, or that he'll survive himself....
Lino Ventura (left) meets Jean Gabin, a future frequent co-star; below, Ventura shows Jeanne Moreau the exit.
Jacques Becker has not made a film noir or a thriller in the later style of Jean-Pierre Melville. Despite a tragic finish, there's no oppressive feeling of fatedness or doom, nor does Becker strive for the precisely calibrated tension that Melville cultivates. Grisbi has plenty of suspenseful moments and a nicely shot nighttime car chase, but it's essentially an old-school crime film of the sort Warner Bros. cranked out in the Thirties. From me, that's as much a compliment as comparing it to Melville or noir. I like Melville's best films better, but Touchez pas au Grisbi is a solid, atmospheric, and ultimately moving picture that I can recommend to any crime film fan.
Here's the trailer (with English subtitles) as uploaded to YouTube by jhhvideoteach: