French director Jean-Pierre Melville brilliantly sets the tone for Le Samourai, one of the coolest action thrillers of all time. Like a painter or musician, Melville perfectly paints the canvas with a few master strokes, all involving light and shadow, washed out colors of grays and blues, and action in place of dialogue. The man's name is Jef Costello, played by the famous French actor Alain Delon, the pretty boy of the French cinema, who knows that the most threatening face is a poker face. "A beautiful destructive angel of the dark street," film critic David Thomson called him, a killer for hire who does his work quickly, accurately, and most importantly...cool. The audience will follow Costello with meticulous detail as he establishes an alibi, murders a night-club owner, and survives through an intense police line-up, all without barely breaking a sweat and portraying an emotion. Le Samourai is a masterful noir gangster thriller that contains calm jazz music throughout its background as you follow a man trying to figure out why he was betrayed by the people who hired him.
The elements in Le Samourai which include cops, hired assassins, the underworld, good and bad women, killers with a heart of gold, and the code of the gangster, have been done time and time again, and yet what makes Le Samourai stand out above the rest is the tone, style, and aesthetic handling of the material. Most of the suspense and drama comes from the controlled existential detachment in the acting, and its subtle attention to detail, which gives this film more of an artistic feel then an artificial one. Based on a story of absurdity and a kind of male extremism this film slips into a form of dream and poetry because of it's artistic flair and gusto. In one of the most thrilling scenes of the film Costello becomes a suspect in a large police manhunt that involves a cat and mouse chase through Paris Metro between the inspector's police force. Without the need of words, audience's witness a brilliantly suspenseful action sequence where Costello is chased all over Paris with underground informants and police who have state of the art tracking devices and are placed at every subway entrance and exit, while Costello jumps in and out of cars, switches trains and platforms; trying to outsmart them.