Two soldiers, one French, Dino Barran (Alain Delon), the other American, Franz Propp (Charles Bronson), have been discharged from the army today and as they disembark the ship a woman tries to attract Barran's attention. She believes him to be an old friend of her ex-partner, Mozart, who didn't make it back from Algiers, but Barran denies all knowledge, even though he did actually befriend him. This woman, Isabelle Moreau (Olga Georges-Picot) is persistent, and after Barran and Propp have had an altercation over gambling, she catches up with him with a strange proposal: break into a safe and put something back...
Farewell Friend, or Adieu l'ami as it was called in France, teamed up two cult stars in a film which cemented Bronson's reputation as big news in Europe, and at Delon's request they proved a solid team. Indeed, Bronson was at his most relaxed and confident here, probably because he was surrounded by fans of his making the film with him: he laughs a few times and even does an impression of a penguin (no, not Pingu). Although they spend most of the start and the ending apart, the lengthy sequence in the middle is the best section of the film where their characters are forced together by circumstance.
This is a pretty inscrutable little thriller for much of it, and even by the end you have to have a good think to work out who was doing what to whom, but it's this quality which keeps you watching. The idea is that to pay a debt to his friend Mozart, Barran agrees to carry out this safe job by taking a post as a doctor in the company building that the safe is kept in to take care of their staff's medical check-ups. While he does so, he arranges a camera to snap photos of the safe being opened so the combination can be ascertained and the plan carried out.
However, it's not all that smooth, as they only get about half the numbers, so over Christmas Barran agrees to be shut in so he can try out the thousands of possible combinations and open the door to return the bonds he has been given (really). As this is a kind of buddy movie, Propp happens to appear as well, and the two of them get into an arrangement that is antagonistic but grudgingly accepting all the same. Especially when they get trapped in the room with the safe after a brawl, with no food or water and the place not being opened till Tuesday.
The futuristic look to the building lends a cold atmosphere to the film, even when the room Barran and Propp are in heats up and they have to strip to the waist, revealing muscular torsos sheened in sweat (steady). While not one of the greatest of Euro-thrillers, Farewell Friend does enjoy considerable star wattage thanks to the male leads, and there's the bonus of Brigitte Fossey, looking fragile as ever and marking out a film career as an adult as Barran's mousey secretary who he brings out of her shell. There are twists and double crosses, but curiously the tense relationship between the two anti-thieves (for want of a better term) is an unexpectedly noble one, leaving you cheered that these two guys eventually stick up for each other. Idiosycnrasies include Bronson getting a catchprhase that makes him sound as if he's predicting the introduction to the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right To Party", but mainly this is an absorbing though confusing suspense drama that pays off your attention. Music by François de Roubaix, but you'll only hear it at the start and ending as one of the quirks is the lack of incidental tunes.