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Le Professionnel

The tepid 1981 spy film Le Professionnel stars New Wave favorite Jean-Paul Belmondo as French Secret Service agent Joss Baumont. Sent to Africa to assassinate the fictional President Njala (Sidiki Bakaba), Joss is captured, drugged, and forced to participate in a sham trial that lands him in prison. After two years of subjugation to torture, hard labor, and unconscionably bad acting, Joss escapes and returns to Paris, only to discover that the French government has changed its political attitude toward Njala — now finding him a necessary ally for military purposes. With Njala about to visit France, Joss's return creates chaos as this once key operative is still bent on carrying out the assassination. This makes Joss a dangerous — albeit stylish — liability. On the lam, Joss is so clever that he can elude all the best agents, find time to make love to his wife and mistress, leap from tall buildings in a single bound, and stay true to his misson — all while looking trés chic in his too-tight polyester hip-huggers and open-to-the-chest leather jacket. Le Professionnel serves mostly as a showcase for Belmondo, but the usually fine actor is given little to do here beyond performing his famous swagger and being élégant. A couple of unintentionally humorous scenes include a Keystone Cop-like chase with mini-cars around the base of the Eiffel Tower, and Joss's easy overpowering of a top agent, who gives in at the slightest hint of personal bodily harm — like having his hair pulled. Mais, c'est le cinema! (One redeeming quality — the rich score by Ennio Morricone.) Image Entertainment's DVD is presented in a 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio with audio in Dolby Digital mono, with no additional special features. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall



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