• Le Professionnel (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: July 2nd, 2019.
    Director: Georges Lautner
    Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Desailly, Cyrielle Clair, Marie-Christine Descouard, Elisabeth Margoni, Michel Beaune
    Year: 1981
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    Le Professionnel – Movie Review:

    The legendary Jean-Paul Belmondo is Joss Beaumont, an assassin in the employ of the French government sent to Africa to take out President N'Jala (Pierre Saintons), the leader of a small country on the dark continent. Joss winds up captured and, after being dragged into court drugged out of his mind, is sentenced to hard labor. Two years into this, Joss and a fellow prisoner manage to launch a daring escape, saving some villagers from N’Jala’s forces along the way and getting into a vicious firefight. Joss makes it out alive and returns to his native France.

    This is no happy reunion, however. Joss knows that his government abandoned him early in the mission they assigned him, and he knows they won’t want him to talk. Before Joss arrives in Paris, he sends a message in code to his superiors letting him know he intends to finish the mission during N’Jala’s visit to Paris, a message that obviously sets them on edge. Commissar Rosen (Robert Hossein) is the man to head up the mission to take Joss out before he can cause an international incident. They know that Joss’ first stop will be to the apartment where his wife, Jeanne (Elisabeth Margoni), lives and so they set a trap for him there. Of course, Joss outsmarts them and, after beating Rosen a few too many times at his own game, they recruit Joss’ former ally, Captain Valeras (Michel Beaune), to help bring him down once and for all.

    Le Professionel is tonally uneven, switching back and forth between tension and action and light comedy seemingly at random, but it is nevertheless a very entertaining picture and, in many ways, the random nature of the production adds to the fun. There are some excellent action set pieces and some great car chase scenes here (Belmondo did all of his own stunts and stunt driving in the film), while the film’s production values are strong throughout. The score from the great Ennio Morricone is top notch even by the man’s own ridiculously high standards, adding tension to the action and suspense scenes, drama to the more personal affairs that Joss deals with as his story unfolds and serious impact to the film’s surprising finale. Even the opening credits are cool, using some unique graphics to instantly pull the viewer in. Throw in some excellent cinematography from Henri Decaë, the same man who shot Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful Le Samourai, and his equally fantastic Le Cercle Rouge, and yeah, this one shapes up really, really nicely.

    Of course, as it is with any film, much of the merit by which the is one succeeds rests on the shoulders of its leading man. Belmondo is just so likeable in this role (and many of the other roles he played) that you can’t help but wind up on his side, even when he’s acting as a bit of a bastard. Not the typically handsome star you’d expect to see in a picture like this, he coasts through the picture with a charming grin on his face, making his character all the more endearing as he goes about killing bad guys, wooing women and generally just making a big old mess of things for those who wronged him.

    Le Professionnel – Blu-ray Review:

    Le Professionel arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, which would appear to be the correct aspect ratio for the film, on a 25GB disc. While this seems to be taken from an older, existing master, the results are still quite strong. Obviously, a new scan would have yielded stronger results but detail is generally pretty solid here and the pictures shows more than decent depth throughout. There isn’t much in the way of print damage at all, the elements used were clearly in great shape, while grain appears naturally throughout. Colors look good, though sometimes a bit flat, and black levels are pretty solid but never reference quality. Shadow detail can be less than perfect and some of the darker scenes might be just a tad noisier than they could be, but overall, this is a very nice transfer.

    The only audio option for the feature is a French language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono but it sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The iconic score from Morricone sounds wonderful here, you can really make out the different instruments used in the music and it helps to enhance the mood substantially. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and the track is nicely balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note, nor is there any audible sibilance. An English dub exists for the film (it was used on the DVD releases from Lionsgate and Image Entertainment) but it has not been included here (not a big deal, as it isn’t very good, but still worth pointing out for those who might prefer it).

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track courtesy of Nathaniel Thompson, Howard S. Berger, and Steve Mitchell that prove to be quite worthwhile. They start off by doing a pretty deep dive into Morricone’s contributions, discussing the effectiveness of the score in quite a bit of detail and exploring the origins of the film’s main theme, Chi Mai, which is rightly iconic in its own way. From there, we get lots of talk about Belmondo’s life and times, some insight into the locations featured in the picture, thoughts on Lautner’s direction, examinations of some of the action set pieces, notes on the supporting actors that populate the film, and comparison to other action films of the period, both American and European.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for The Outsider, Le Doulos (both of which star Belmondo) and The Sicilian Clan, menus and chapter selection. Also, bonus points for using the original, and fairly iconic, one-sheet art on the cover. It’s been stated that Lautner shot an alternate ending for the film but sadly that material doesn’t ever seem to have surfaced on home video.
    Le Professionnel – The Final Word:

    Le Professionel holds up, it’s tense, exciting, dramatic and occasionally quite funny. The action set pieces are very strong and Belmondo is in fine form, the perfect leading man for a picture like this one. Kino’s Blu-ray release offers the film in a decent, if imperfect, transfers with strong audio and a good audio commentary as its main extra feature. Definitely recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Le Professionnel Blu-ray screen caps!