Criterion reissues two lesser-known films from the master of the French gangster film, Jean-Pierre Melville. Released in 1962 and 1966 respectively, Le Doulos and Le Deuxième Souffle have previously been unavailable.

Melville’s hardboiled characters exist in an underworld of honor and betrayal. It’s a lonely, isolated existence where one is always being hunted.

Le Doulos is a hidden Melville masterpiece, a film of grudges, betrayals and unsure alliances. It stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a police informant. His machinations surrounding a burglary precipitate an ending akin to Shakespearean tragedy.

Le Deuxième Souffle, like Michael Mann’s Heat, tells the story of a master thief and a feared cop squaring off against each other. After Gu (Lino Ventura) breaks out of prison, he’s brought out of hiding for one last heist.

But Inspector Blot is determined to outsmart him. The pair contends with a dizzying cast of underworld characters all with their own grudges and histories.

It’s a flawed film from a director who is usually meticulous. It contains some masterful Melville touches, but it’s mostly for the diehard fan.

Grades: A/B+

Le Doulos and Le Deuxième Souffle are both currently available.