A hit-man, a helicopter, an unforgettable climactic sequence, a, thriller, a music
It's sad that 90% of movie fans now remember "The Professional" as a great action/thriller film made by a French director named
Luc Besson, and featuring the acting debut of Natalie Portman, and Jean Reno as a professional hit-man protecting her from the claws of a demented cop played by Gary Oldman.
I guess EVERYONE in America associates THIS title with THIS film, while in France, and probably in Europe, when people think of "The Professional", there's a beautiful melody instantly resonating in their mind, a penetrating score that conveys the fatality hanging over the shoulders of one of the greatest antiheroes of French Cinema: Joss Beaumont, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo in his career's most defining role, and the notes I'm thinking of while writing these lines are certainly some of the greatest that ever enriched Cinema's musical memories, a sound made by the great Ennio Morricone. If you haven't seen the film and if you're unfamiliar with the music, I allow you to suspend the reading of this review, because it's so pointless compared to the beauty of "The Professional"'s score. And I implore you to go listen to it, before getting back to this useless assemblage of words.
What is "The Professional", or who is he? I don't know if this really matters if you don't plan to watch the film. It's so simplistic in its premise that it can be compared to anything made before or after, like "The Day of the Jackal" or even the 1994's "Professional" after all: you have your traditional cat-and-mouse chase between a killer with a sense of honor, and the cops and politicians whose ambiguous motives make you inevitably root for their target. Manipulation? No, the film is simply above these considerations, when you watch it; you understand that it doesn't have no purpose else than to captivate you until a rewarding confrontation. It still has an average 80's B-movie feel, some campy acting, some visual and sound effects that need to be reconsidered, the blood looks like red paint, in fact, the form is as simplistic as the content.
And the treatment toward women is exquisitely misogynistic in the purest tradition of James Bond films where even in the most honorable woman, there's something slutty waiting for the magnetic Belmondo, to exude itself, all the opportunities to expose some nude breasts or curvy legs are good, but for some reason, it suits the spirit of a film that doesn't embarrass itself with political correctness: these were other days where movies obeyed to some formulas that didn't depend on the public's reaction. Indeed, the script written by Michel Audiard, one of the most popular French writers, is a challenge for moral sensitivity, since nobody's spared : Africans, politicians, women, cops, there's a cloud of badness contaminating the air and spilling over all the characters, and in this environment where each works for his or her interest, all we can do is to root for the man who follows his instinct, his sense of duty, his honor.
Joss Beaumont is the man who was paid to kill the President of a fictional African country, and was literally sold by his government. After two years, he's back to France, and determined to finish his job, even if the President became a friend of France. People are so banally corrupted that the very notion of hero and villain becomes pointless. There's a great line coming from the African head of state who tells Joss that 'it took France two revolutions and five republics to become a very debatable form of democracy, and he's supposed to do that in years?' During the disenchanted 70's when France was stricken by an economical crisis, the infamous "Giscard presidency", and when the public was disillusioned with the power of law, an icon had to incarnate this moral ambiguity between what is legal and is legitimate. Since his debuts with Melville, Belmondo was born to play likable outlaws and needless to say that "The Professional" was tailor-made for him.
The movie has reached such an iconic status in France that it might catch off-guard some younger or foreign audience, because at first sight, there's something almost deliberately poor in the way it's handled until the cat-and-mouse aspect gradually turns more into a sort of chess game where Beaumont is so well-trained that he becomes a real mastermind, using the greatest tricks he learned, he even refers to chess by using the 'playing the whites' strategy: the attack. And naturally, there's always this feeling of everyone trying to anticipate the moves of the other, to which person he'll get, and what he'll do next. Beaumont's goal is clear: assassinating the President, and for cops: stopping Beaumont, by any means and for that job: there's the unflappable face of Robert Hossein, as Rosen, the man who made it personal: so calm, so scary that he's the perfect antagonist to the flamboyant and charismatic Beaumont.
To conclude, whatever could be perceived as flaws is so archetypal of a certain breed of French cinema that it takes a sort of gourmet pleasure to appreciate it, especially today when, for the sake of realism, the macho man has turned into a sexual beast and when characters are all bland and particularly unlikable. Interestingly, one of the new generations actors who was inspired by Belmondo is Jean Dujardin and you can see how he inherited his mannerisms, this mix of charisma and flamboyance. There are some times where nothing can beat old-school cinema, because it was so damn serious but never took itself seriously.
And the last five minutes are so breathtaking, that whatever flaws you may have pointed out, it totally redeems the film, especially thanks to the iconic score of Ennio Morricone. Simply put, "The Professional" is one of the best French films!
5 out of 6 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.