Le Samouraï (1967)

le samourai poster 1967 movie alain delon
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice character study type movie with a character who doesn't show his hand

It has been emulated many times since with mixed results

Movie Info

Movie Name: Le Samouraï

Studio:  Compagnie Industrielle et Commercial Cinematographique/Fida Cinematografica/Filmel

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  October 25, 1967 (France)/July 12, 1972 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

le samourai police line up alain delon

You can’t catch me, copper…ok, you can catch me, but you can’t pin nuthin’ on me!

Jef Costello (Alain Delon) is a calm, cool, and collected hitman living in France.  When he has a botched murder of a nightclub owner, Jef is brought in by the superintendent of the police (François Périer), Costello becomes a target of the police and the men who hired him.  Costello finds the walls are closing in on him and that he is running out of time to either get free or get revenge…Costello isn’t going down without a fight.

Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Samouraï is a French crime thriller.  The film was released to positive reviews and has gained a cult following over the years.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #306).

I watched Le Samouraï as a backdoor entry.  While the film is known for influencing a lot of films including The Driver, Drive, The Killer, The American, and Ghost Dog:  The Way of the Samurai, I saw the films it influenced before the original film.  The originally of Le Samouraï must be remembered when watching it this way.

le samourai francois perier nathalie delon

Is my police charm working on you, lady?

Having seen films that influenced Le Samouraï, the movie feels like a comfortable fit.  The structure of a killer who lives alone with few belongings leaves you questioning what he gets out of the work because money and material possessions don’t seem to matter too much.  The character has romantic relationship with Jane (Nathalie Delon) and sensual encounters with Valérie (Caty Rosier), but he comes off as somewhat psychopathic with no emotion…he’s pretty much a mystery.

Delon stokes that mystery in his portrayal.  Even with Jef Costello is alone, he doesn’t look comfortable in his own skin.  Delon’s chiseled looks give him a coldness in this role that really works, but he also feels like a classic gangster.  François Périer likewise does a good job as the obsessed police chief that wants to bring in Costello because he knows Costello’s almost flaunting his ability to commit crimes and create alibies.  While Nathalie Delon (who was married to Alain at the time of the movie) doesn’t get much depth initially, her character opens up in the scene between her and François Périer which shows both of their cunning abilities.

le samourai alain delon michel boisrond assassin

Put away my gun? Sure, you seem like a trustworthy fella

The movie feels like a nice cross between classic noir with the shady figures lurking in the dark and a French New-Age film with shiny streets and bright locations…Costello not only acts out of place but looks out of place.  The film extensively uses the subway system (which the police try to track Delan through) and also has some nice “modern” club scenes to contrast the noir style (leading it into neo-noir territory).

Le Samouraï is a solid thriller that should be checked out if you haven’t seen it.  The themes in the movie still hold true and despite visually appearing from a different age, it still feels very much like a modern movie.  The motives and motivators for Jef Costello might not be clear, but he does seem to have a strict code he lives by…and that code has consequences.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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