The Professional ★★★★½

"Joss Beaumont, espionage and brawls!"

And so ends my little mini festival of world cinema. I wanted to watch four today but a trip to the fish and chip shop put paid to that. I rounded things off with this real little oddity of a French film from the early 1980s, which I can only presume must have been an influence, to a lesser or greater extent, on the Jason Bourne stories amongst other things.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a secret service agent sent to a fictional African country to assassinate a corrupt politician. However, when a change of mind on behalf of his bosses see them tip said politician off, he ends up incarcerated in the country before an escape back to France sees him try and finish what he started - and to try and elude capture from his agency.

Although I'm a great fan of more recent French cinema, if it's anything from before about 1995 then I really don't have much of a clue. Knowing a little bit about the strong French noir genre that was still apparently going great guns at this time, I was expecting a film of that ilk. What I got was really nothing like I expected at all.

I guess there are noir-ish elements here and there, but what this actually is is an occasionally rather amusing action caper. But even then you're not really covering the bases that this film touches, with its ever-present Ennio Morricone theme song (Chi Mai - you'll know it if you hear it) piping up all too often and often fairly inappropriately. The odd one-liner that wouldn't seem out of place in a Hollywood action film later on in the decade and even the odd bit of slapstick and farcical comedy make this as unpredictable as it is just tremendously entertaining.

Belmondo is, well, fantastic. By that I don't mean that he's actually all that great when it comes to the deeper aspects of acting or anything, and the same could be said of just about everyone else here. There is some really stiff delivery going on here to say the least. No, he just happens to be fantastically charismatic and cool, and he also seems to be enjoying it all so much. In other words, he's just perfect for this film and a surprisingly good action star.

It's never ever predictable and its plot is worked through extremely well for a film that very often slips into the realms of the peculiar. It definitely wasn't the introduction to French noir that I was expecting or hoping for, but I actually mean that in the most positive way possible. What a fantastic film!

Steve G liked this review