Written and directed by Jean Herman and released to theaters in 1968, Farewell Friend (also known as Honor Among Thieves, which is the title Lionsgate used when they released it on DVD way back in 2007) tells the story of Dino Barran (Alain Delon) and Franz Propp (Charles Bronson), two men that served together in the French Foreign Legion. After their time together overseas, Dino works as a doctor and Franz, well, he makes a living in a less honorable way, but neither of these men is a saint.
See, Dino is up to something, using his cover as a doctor in a clever way. He meets up with the lovely and mysterious Isabelle Moreau (Olga Georges-Picot) who claims to looking for a soldier named Mozart. She contacts Dino and he learns that she's got a whole lot of money in bearer bonds that she wants to get back into the company safe. Mozart was to help her out with this, but as he's gone missing, Dino steps in. Franz gets wind of this and wants in on the action himself, and they set into motion a plan where Dino will use his medical skills to get inside the company just before the holidays to perform annual checkups on certain employees. When he's inside, he'll setup a hidden camera that will catch the combination to the safe in the basement. They figure that, with the holidays close by, the typically well-secured and busy office will be empty, giving them a chance to get in, pop that safe and make it out of there with the loot. As Dino's plan is set into motion, Franz returns from Africa where he was working as a mercenary and inserts himself into the situation and before you know it, they're working together to get the safe cracked, Dino insisting he's helping get the bonds back in for Isabelle and not out to steal the cash inside. It gets complicated from there on out… particularly when a murder throws a wrench into things for the pair.
The story has some plot holes and, oddly enough, the beginning and then end aren't as interesting as the middle stretch with the two leads working the safe, but Farewell Friend has so much macho charisma that it doesn't really matter that much. The story is a decent one, holes or no holes, and it moves at a pretty solid pace. More character development and a bit more back story would have certainly helped to flesh things out a bit and maybe make the characters more interesting but the film is easily able to coast on the strength of its two leading men. Delon is handsome, slick and charming. Bronson a bit rougher around the edges. They make a great pair and watching the two of them act together is enjoyable enough in and of itself. Olga Georges-Picot has a decent supporting role here and familiar character actors Brigitte Fossey and Bernard Fresson also pop up in the film to nice effect.
And that safe cracking scene, it's impressive. It builds tension very well, our two leads stuck in the building and working with limited time. It's a simple concept and one that's been exploited often enough that it might even feel like a bit of a cliché, but Herman keeps us engaged here… we really want to see how all of this plays out. If that's not enough, well, there's always the scene where Bronson, working as a de facto pimp, forces a girl to strip so that she can be decorated in Christmas adornments. It's pretty odd!
Production values are solid. The cinematography is glossy, slick at times, and the movie feels very polished. The score helps enhance the drama and the tension in the story and the locations are well chosen, feeling very appropriate for the story being told.
All in all, not a perfect film but certainly a very good one and definitely a picture worth seeing for fans of Delon, Bronson or both.
Farewell Friend arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded transfer in 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. Some scenes look a bit softer than others but this is clearly the way that the movie was shot. Most scenes look quite nice, showing very good detail and strong depth. Colors are well-reproduced here and we get solid black levels too. Skin tones appear nice and natural throughout and there are no noticeable issues with any visible noise reduction or edge enhancement. The 50GB disc gives the feature plenty of breathing room and the strong bit rate ensures that the picture is free of compression problems. All in all, it looks quite good… naturally grainy any very filmic in appearance.
The English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds just fine. Dialogue is clear, there's a fair amount of depth and the score sounds pretty solid. Levels are balanced and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Nathanial Thompson, Steve Mitchell and Howard Berger. It's a well-researched track, the right mix of critical analysis and historical context. They talk about the themes that the picture explores, some of the subtext in the picture, the director's history and style, how Bronson wound up making a film in France and the man's thoughts on the picture itself, the quality of Delon's acting, who did what in front of and behind the camera, the score and plenty more. It's an engaging track and quite a lively conversation.
Additionally, Kino includes an archival interview from 2004 with director Jean Herman (or Vautrin according to the subtitles) that runs thirty-four-minutes in length. It's more of a look back at his career than a specific examination of Farewell Friend but it's a nice addition to the disc and quite an interesting piece.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Kino properties, menus and chapter selection.
Farewell Friend is a well-crafted thriller, a slick showcase for the skills of both Bronson and Delon that proves as engaging as it is entertaining. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks and sounds very good indeed and features some nice extra features as well. Recommended.