Archive for July 21st, 2018

21
Jul
18

Le Samourai, The Commuter

Le Samourai
Jean-Pierre Melville’s landmark film is just as mesmerizing today as it was when it was released in 1967. On first watch it appears to be a straight-forward gangster story, a tale about a hitman scrambling for his life after a botched assassination. However, upon reflection, it is a film about much more than its mere script. It is a study in duality. We see hitman Alain Delon’s meager apartment juxtaposed against his impeccable attire. His methodical planning butting against forces he cannot anticipate. Control vs. chaos. Police vs. criminals. Refinement vs. brutality. There is so much bubbling beneath the surface that this is a film that demands to be rewatched again and again. Upon my first viewing, I was underwhelmed by the ending. But while examining it, it becomes clear that the ending was just as carefully planned by Delon’s character as any event in the rest of the film. He intended things to end the way they did, it wasn’t just a case of the good guys catching up to the bad guy. The movie is the antithesis of over-explaining things to the audience. We are never told who ordered the original hit, why the jazz club witness to the crime won’t identify Delon to the police, or why Delon unloads his gun at the end. It is up to the audience to put the pieces together. And 50 years later there are no clear answers, only general ideas about what Delon might have been thinking, or who might have been behind the double-crosses. The other thing that sets Le Samourai apart from almost every other movie is its effortless sense of “cool.” Delon’s icy, well-dressed hitman is frequently shot in profile. He never seems to break a sweat. He speaks seldom, and always knows exactly what to say when the time is right. He has everything planned out in advance. Yet it’s never contrived or cheesy. Everything that happens is practically the definition of cool. It’s hard to describe, but oozes down the screen in every single frame. Le Samourai has become a highly influential movie, inspiring John Woo’s The Killer, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and countless others. This is a movie I cannot recommended enough. It is a definite must watch.
Verdict: Awesome
The Commuter
Jaume Collet-Serra is a director who keeps making big-budget, high-profile films despite none of them ever being any good. And he somehow manages to keep snagging Liam Neeson to star in his trash, with this film marking their fourth collaboration. The Commuter takes Neesons’ cachet as an action star, and nudges it in a slightly different direction. Instead of being Taken On A Train, The Commuter acts as more of a thriller. Neeson plays a former cop turned businessman who loses his job, and can’t afford to pay his bills. On his final train commute back home, he is approached by a mysterious woman who asks him to use his “special set of skills” to find someone on the train (with only a pseudonym, and not a face) in exchange for $100,000. Given his unfortunate circumstances, he can’t say no. The bulk of the film takes place on the train, with Neeson stalking back and forth, trying various angles to find out who the mystery person is. He grows more frantic as the film goes on, because once the train reaches the end of the line, the mystery person will escape. Some of the methods of investigation were fairly clever, but, sadly, at the start of the third act, the film throws it all to the wind and devolves into a messy actioner. At this point, the train literally and figuratively goes off the rails in a laughably bad CGI-a-thon. We suddenly get a plethora of double-crosses, and badly directed fight scenes. Neeson hobbles around, shouts angrily, and tries his best not to lose his dignity. By the end, it turns out to be a fairly generic affair, and it ends exactly how you expect it will. A more competent director, with a sense of restraint, could have actually made this a great film, Hitchcockian, even. However, Collet-Serra is no Hitchcock, and he cannot say no to bad CGI and bad action sequences. The first two-thirds of the film get a score of Average, and the final third a score of Shitty, so the movie ends up with a final score of Bad.
Verdict: Bad
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