These are two very different kinds of stories done very differently. Of the two, "Red Lights" is easily the more noir.
"└ bout portant" is a fast-moving action story with a familiar plot core: innocent man (Gilles Lellouche) caught up in crime and pursuit. The plot elaboration, however, is nifty and unpredictable, involving the man's pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) and a safecracker (Roschdy Zem) who has been framed by a criminal police unit (led by GÚrard Lanvin).
The degree of criminality of Lanvin and his gang of police is extreme, but not more so than Hal Holbrook's vigilante cops that Dirty Harry faces in "Magnum Force". Lanvin negotiates his role with his usual passive seriousness, relying on his weathered appearance. Lellouche and Anaya provide more than enough displays of emotion in their peril. Zem, a 45-year old actor at the time who now has 88 credits under his belt, registers strongly with his composed, laconic, calculating good bad man, taking aim at Lanvin and more than paying back Lellouche who has saved his life.
"Red Lights" stems from a masterful Simenon story, centered squarely on a middle-aged insurance salesman (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) who is feeling the confinement of his life and the staleness of his marriage. He feels an assault on his masculinity from his corporate lawyer wife (Carole Bouquet) who has little or no time for him and who is much in demand from her male co-workers. There is still love, still commitment, but there is a growing irritation on his part, which leads him to want to get smashed and break out into something wild.
Put them in a car headed for Tours to pick up their two children from summer camp, mix in a dangerous escaped fugitive (Vincent Deniard), and you have the makings of a cracking good story that goes way beyond its road movie appearance. It's a strong character study with a character arc, combined with unexpected action. Again and again, along the way, the film skillfully builds suspense by not telling us exactly what's happening but by letting us deduce it by bits of action and small remarks. In one unusual and lengthy telephone sequence in which Darroussin searches for his missing wife, he makes call after call after call, all logical. I can't recall a film that took such a chance in telling a story, but it works, and not least by the acting of Darroussin who epitomizes the out-of-condition white collar male who doesn't lack for money and the comforts of life, but who is missing something.