Follow us on

Featured DVD Review: The Professional

July 6th, 2010

The Professional - Buy from Amazon

Every once and a while I get a really obscure DVD to review that makes me wonder why? Why is this DVD coming out? The Professional is one such DVD. It's a French film from 1981 that was a pretty big hit in Europe nearly 30 years ago, but I don't think it ever earned a theatrical release here. I don't think many people reading this will have heard of the movie; I certainly didn't know anything about it till I popped the DVD into my player. So am I in for an unexpected surprise, or in the end will I still be asking myself, "Why?"

At the start of the film we are introduced to Josselin Beaumont, a French agent, at his trial in the Republic of Malagawi. He is accused of trying to assassinate their president for life, Colonel Njala. This is not a court that is interested in the truth and the trial is merely a show. He's been given as many drugs as they can while still keeping him vertical, maybe a little bit more, so he's willing to admit to anything. But they need him to admit he acted on his own so that they will not offend the French, who are now their allies. They also refrain from executing him but sentence him to hard labor for the same reason.

This turns out to be a mistake, as two years after his mission began, Josselin Beaumont escapes, with the help of another political prisoner. He travels back to Paris and upon learning Colonel Njala will be in town for negotiations, plans to complete his mission. This is bad news for all involved, as it turns out his capture was no accident. Between the time he was sent to Malagawi but before he could complete his mission, the French decided that while Colonel Njala was a brutal tyrant, he was more useful as an ally than dead. They also decided it was easier to simply inform them of Josselin Beaumont's mission details so he could be captured than to recall him. Now he's intent on making sure the job he was sent to do is completely, plus get a little revenge on those who betrayed him.

As I mentioned, when this DVD arrived on my desk, I had no idea what it was about. As soon as I saw the name, I thought of Leon, but the movies have no real connections to each other. That said, as soon as I heard the score, it sounded familiar, very familiar. Turns out it's called "Chi Mai" was composed by Ennio Morricone and not only has his signature sound, but it has been used in other films, TV shows, commercials, etc. So maybe I'd heard it somewhere else and that doesn't mean anything. However, by the time the movie ended, I knew I had seen the movie before. The name might be completely generic, but this is a memorable film. The writing is crisp, Jean-Paul Belmondo is awesome in the lead, and that ending. That's not the typical Hollywood ending.

On the other hand, the film is nearly 30 years old and there are some parts that haven't aged well. There are very few special effects, which is probably for the best, as I can almost guarantee they would have dated the movie even more. However, the fight scenes don't have the same visceral feel that spy thrillers made today have. This is also true of the car chase scenes, which also seem old-fashioned, and not in a good way.

That said, if I have to choose between old-fashioned action and excellent writing with a charming lead, I'll take the latter every single time.

Sadly, there are no real extras on the DVD. There's the trailer, which is quite bad. I guess just as filmmakers have gotten better at making action movies, they've improved their ability to market them as well. While there are no extras, the transfer is apparently a real step up from the last time it was released on DVD here. If you own the 2001 edition, now's the time to make the upgrade.

The Verdict

The Professional is a spy thriller that works in all the important areas and it is worth owning for fans of the genre, even with a DVD that is devoid of real special features. If you are like me, you might not recognize the name, but you will remember the movie.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review