A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Abel is a convicted killer on the lam from the French, who has lived in Italy long enough to acquire a wife and two sons. He loves his family more than crime. He thinks it is time to return to France. One last job should do it. If he went to more movies, he'd know that calling it your "last job" seems to put the jinx in.
Abel is played by Lino Ventura, with a sad, lived-in face. At the train station in Milan, he meets his wife Therese (Simone France), their sons, and his partner Raymond (Stan Krol). The details of the plan have been carefully prepared: They'll put the wife and kids on the train to a town just the other side of the French border, then stick up a bank messenger, make a getaway, switch cars, meet up again, and cross into France. Abel has pals in Paris he's sure will be happy to see him again. He did them a lot of favors.
The snatch-and-grab on a Milan street takes place, but the getaway is not as planned, and Abel and Raymond end up hiring a boat to get them to Nice. Here I will cloud certain details, moving ahead to a call Abel makes to Paris. He needs his old pals to drive down to Nice and meet him. This they are not eager to do. We see them hemming and hawing and explaining to each other how one needs to check in with his probation officer and another -- anyway, what happens is, they recruit a kid none of them knows very well, and hire him to drive down and look for the old man.
This kid is Eric Stark, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo at the dawn of his stardom. He makes the kind of entrance you notice; wearing a loud, tweed overcoat would be perfect for a stickup, because witnesses would remember the coat instead of the guy inside. His entrance is an important moment in movie history. The French New Wave descended more or less directly from mainstream French crime films made in the 1950s, and if there is a missing link in that evolution, it might be this one. Claude Sautet's "Classe Tous Risques" was made in 1960, the same year Godard's "Breathless" (1960) came out, and both starred Belmondo, who was the flavor of the year; he had appeared in 10 other recent films, and would have six more starring roles in 1960, usually playing a plug-ugly who was after for the girl.