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Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a French contract assassin hired by a Los Angeles crime family, ostensibly to perform a hit on some other mafia target. But simultaneously, as he arrives to do his job, a slaying occurs inside the household of the mob boss supposed to employ him. Suspicion is deliberately cast against Trintignant from within that very family. When he tries to flee the country, he discovers that his passport and luggage have been stolen. From that moment on, Trintignant is on the run from the police and the minions of two different mob families. What makes his escape hazardous is that the real murderer shares all the information known about him to aid in his capture and death. Written by
This had all the makings for a first rate international crime action drama. There is a good premise, of a hit-man agreeing to off a powerful crime boss to pay off a debt, only to discover it was a set-up with himself marked for death, a first-rate cast, a "Shaft"-inspired score by Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand, and excellent location photography which captures the Los Angeles landscape. So why doesn't this film work? For one thing, it never settles on a tone, and it swerves between character study to crime drama and doesn't have enough of either. The character being studied is impossible to care about anyway, the crime aspects are never fully explored, and most the action scenes are mostly ordinary. Even the climactic shootout isn't all that exciting, in spite of happening in a clever location. The result is that the film is usually depressing. There are a few good scenes and the cast is more than up to the task. However, most of the actors are given little to do. In the lead, the great French actor Jean- Louis Trintignant does little more than glower or sulk, making this one of his less memorable performances. Ann Margaret is beautiful, but her role is merely set decoration. Georgia Engel steals the show as a ditsy housewife who innocently gets caught up in the double cross and violence, but she doesn't have that large of a role. The truth is, she's the only person who evokes any sympathy, with everyone else being either a vicious criminal, an inept cop, or an apathetic bystander. That wasn't an unusual situation in 1970's crime dramas, but it doesn't make for exciting viewing. Some people like this movie a lot, so if you're really interested, judge for yourself, but don't complain if you were also disappointed.
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