September 23, 2019  (Web Review)

Le Professionnel

Kino, 108 min., in French w/English subtitles, R, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as superspy Joss Beaumont in this 1981 French espionage thriller. The film opens with Beaumont taking the rap for a failed assassination in an unnamed African country when the political winds shift. Beaumont is not merely abandoned by his own government but also served up as a sacrificial lamb and sentenced to hard labor. Belmondo plays the role as a burned-out idealist disgusted by the cynicism and hypocrisy around him. He’s a bit old to really pull off the wounded political naive but he’s perfect as the charming, tough-skinned, vengeance-driven survivor who escapes from prison. Not only does Beaumont want payback from everyone who betrayed him, he also plots to complete his assignment: the assassination of the despot with whom his superiors have now made peace. Humiliating the agency that left him hanging is merely icing on the cake. Le Professionnel is hardly an espionage classic—the plotting isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, and the grim doom of Beaumont’s mission feels like a dramatic fabrication of tough-guy romanticism—but Belmondo is a magnetic rebel and the film’s distrust of government situational ethics and political compromise will never go out of style. Georges Lautner directs and Jean Desailly, Robert Hossein, and Cyrielle Claire costar. Extras include audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)