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Film: Le Samourai

"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle... Perhaps..."

Le Samourai, known in the US as The Godson or Cop Out (no, not that Cop Out),is a 1967 French Crime thriller directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and starring Alain Delon. It follows a perfectionist hitman named Jef Costello as he sets up an alibi, performs a hit, and then tries to get away with it, all while staying true to his Bushido-like code of honor. He eventually finds himself on the run from both the police and his former employers.

Le Samourai is famous for being one of the first films to deal with the existential hero, and for deconstructing many of the tropes of the crime thriller and assassin genres.


This film includes examples of:

  • Badass in a Nice Suit: In a suit, tie, trenchcoat, white gloves, and perfectly positioned fedora at all times. Jef Costello cares as much about his appearance as he does about his alibi.
  • Batman Gambit: Jef plants himself outside his girlfriend's apartment when her other lover comes home before making his hit. Later, when the lover is brought in to identify Jef, he recognizes and fingers him, thinking he's nailing him for a crime, when in reality he's offering him an airtight alibi for the murder.
  • Blatant Lies: The opening quote is ostensibly from "the book of Bushido". In reality, it came from director Jean-Pierre Melville's imagination.
  • Contract on the Hitman: After he's briefly taken into custody by the police (despite having what appears to be an airtight alibi), Jef's employers decide they'd rather kill him than risk him implicating them.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Costello (and the people who follow him) appear to have a ring containing every possible car or house key in Paris.
    • This is obviously what we in France call a passe-partout (lit. "go through anywhere"), which is basically a ring of skeleton keys.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Pretty much the whole idea behind the film and its take on the Crime genre.
  • Film Noir: Seen as a definitive example of neo-noir films for its style and pacing. Even though it's a crime movie, it has only three scenes involving guns.
  • Incest Subtext: Melville cast Nathalie Delon as Costello's first romantic interest because they looked more like siblings than lovers, and wanted that sort of awkwardness between them for the audience. It gets weird when you realize the two of them were husband and wife in real life, and not related at all.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Subverted. When the Paris police sneak into assassin Jef Costello's apartment to plant a listening device, the one they initially choose is a huge black box with a big antenna and a red light. The officer puts it in the hiding place, scrutinizes it briefly, and then decides to go with a smaller model.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Costello would rather die alone than kill the bystander who supported his alibi.
  • In Love with the Mark: Jef is implied to feel this way about the nightclub musician who supported his alibi (and she to him), but it might just be his code of honor.
  • Market-Based Title / Nonindicative Title: For its US release, Le Samourai was retitled The Godson in order to cash in on the gangster craze started by The Godfather.
  • Meaningful Name: The main character's (not French at all) name, "Jef Costello", is a reference to both Robert Mitchum's character in the Film Noir classic Out Of the Past and to famous American mobster Frank Costello (NOT, that Frank Costello)
  • Nice Hat
  • The Oner: The opening shot of Jef on his couch, with a slow, jerky Vertigo Effect to go with it (Word of God says this is to emphasize Costello's lonliness and mental instability).
  • Professional Killer: Partially averted. Jef is extremely skilled and certainly a Badass in a Nice Suit (see above), but barely speaks and lives in a crapsack two-room apartment with only a bird for company.
  • Reality Subtext: It was revealed in later years that Alain and Nathalie Delon had connections to French organized crime.
  • Rule of Three: A dramatic example. We see the massive ring of keys three times, twice from Costello and once from the police.
  • Signature Style: Costello puts on white gloves before every kill. This is a trademark of Jean-Pierre Melville.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: Used to emphasize the cold nature of the characters and to invoke the feel of Film Noir. Director Melville said that his goal was to try and "make a black-and-white film in color".

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alternative title(s): Le Samourai
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