Stoic, fedora-sporting hitman Jef Costello (Alain Delon) botches his latest job and rouses suspicion among the police, in particular in a dogged detective (François Périer). Soon, Costello finds himself the target of both the police, and the organization that hired him. Jean-Pierre Melville’s spare script loses us in terms of character development and motivation — very little of either is really assayed — as Costello turns the tables on his mafia employers, and evades the Paris police. The climactic turns in the film are so elided that its final act feels strangely disembodied. Still, Nathalie Delon is a treat to watch, and Melville’s from-the-hip shooting style combined with astute editing rhythms prefigures Hollywood’s crime capers of the early ’70s (notably The French Connection). The object of great movie-geek adulation since its release, Le Samourai is, on balance, an enjoyably stylish entry in the French crime film tradition, but a decidedly minor one.
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by: Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin
Cast: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, Jacques Leroy, Michel Boisrond, Jean-Pierre Posier