France's Jean Reno is to star in The Empire Of The Wolves (L'Empire Des Loups), a big budget crime thriller in the vein of Crimson Rivers that should be one of the standout French pictures of next year.

The story, which focuses on issues of identity and lost memories, involves a pair of cops applying dubious methods to track down a serial killer who disfigures his victims. There is also an unscrupulous plastic surgeon and the Turkish Mafia and a criss-cross chase that runs from Paris to Istanbul. Reno is set to play one of the two policemen.

Directed by Chris Nahon, The Empire of Wolves is based on a best-seller by Jean-Christophe Grange who wrote the novel on which hit film Crimson Rivers was based.

With a shoot set to start in January, the new picture is being produced by Gaumont, which once again appears to be concentrating its production efforts at the blockbuster end of the scale.

Gaumont has managed to scoop the new Grange for itself, rather than through Alain Goldman's Legende Productions.

Goldman's $25m Crimson Rivers, which starred Reno and Vincent Cassel and grossed $60m worldwide, was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz for Gaumont.

The sequel, Crimson Rivers 2: Angels Of The Apocalypse, which Goldman produced and is now in post at Europacorp is directed by Olivier Dahan (Already Dead).