Devon Seltzer’s review published on Letterboxd:
Many of us geeks like to play a game called “What If?” in which a hypothetical question, usually involving pop culture, is suggested and ideas thrown about. For example, what if Akira Kurosawa had been a director in the French New Wave? Thankfully, we don't have to speculate on this one, Jean-Pierre Melville gave us Le Samouraï, the story of a Parisian hitman who lives a simple life of patience and honor, which is probably as close as you could ever get to a French Kurosawa film.
Our assassin goes by the name Jef Costello, and I'm going to be honest, I'm not sure if there has ever been a cooler character in all of cinema. I don't just mean in the sense that he's a fascinating character, he is literally cool-headed, going about his craft with an almost supernatural degree of foresight and planning. Played by Alain Delon, Costello is a great character with which to spend a movie, he doesn't talk much, but he still feels fully realized and I was enthralled no matter how much or little was going on at any given time. Delon performs the role fantastically, playing Costello perfectly, and deftly handling both the realistic action scenes, and the quieter, more intense moments. I think you can count the amount of times Delon blinks during this movie on one hand.
Equally as impressive as its lead character, is the framing and plot of the film. Instead of the conventional hitman story where we see the lead performing numerous kills or seeking to leave the life behind them, Melville instead shows us only one assignment. The film opens as Costello wakes up, and from there we follow him as he prepares for his kill, stealing a car, getting armed, setting up an alibi. The hit itself is quick, after which the film ramps up in intensity as Costello has outwit the police and avoid the people that hired him who are now out for his blood, all while maintaining its calm and collected pacing. Never devolving into an action film, Le Samouraï is content to linger in the quieter moments of assassination and police investigation, and the end result in a unique and arresting take on a tired subgenre.
Being a relatively simple film in the board strokes, I don't want to say too much more about Le Samouraï. It doesn't tell a massive, world ending story, but is all the more powerful for how intimate it is, taking a simple idea and layering it with depth and intelligence. Melville has crafted a truly special work here, one that every movie fan owes it to themselves to check out, filmed with an amazing eye and endless talent, both behind and in front of the camera, there isn't really another film like Le Samouraï, and I doubt there ever will be.