"When a true soldier is told to kill, he kills. He does not question why; he does not mourn the fallen; he fulfills his role and moves on to the next."Quite self-explanatory: a character who is characterized by his/her intense professionalism and intolerance of the lack thereof in others. The Consummate Professional is most often a very serious character, be it by choice or by requirement. Use of this trope is often, though not always, involved in a profession that warrants violence or is on the shadier side of the law like a soldier of fortune, professional spy, Courier, or professional assassin. Regardless of precisely who employs them or what their actual job is, being a Consummate Professional is standard for Men in Black types as well. Alternatively, he can also belong to a more conventional profession, but be ruthlessly dedicated to it, such as a profession in the legal system or a corporate position. He has a very strict code of conduct to which he adheres meticulously, and instantly dislikes anyone who implies he should lighten up. He also instantly dislikes anyone who's a little too friendly (after all, Being Personal Isn't Professional). Although, there are some people who can make balance between friendliness and professionalism. This attitude is most of the time justified: his line of work makes any personal connection or moral compunction a liability. This doesn't mean he's a complete cold fish, it just means he prefers ethics to morals. Morals are broad and prone to emotional interpretation, ethics are specific and more efficient. While he might be willing to have a softer disposition towards friends or family, any client is treated impersonally and no better than the job demands. If there are alignments in play, they stick most to Lawful and Neutral alignments, rarely to Good ones (since an altruistic attitude doesn't lend itself to their ruthless dedication to their job) and NEVER to Chaotic. Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil are the most common alignments associated with this trope. The Consummate Professional is also recognized for his uncanny talent at his chosen profession. His no-nonsense attitude has allowed him to hone his skill to an almost supernatural degree, to the point his name (if actually known) becomes synonymous with excellence in his line of work. Be it playing the stock market, performing a military mission or killing a mark, he baffles others with his complete control and superlative skills. If he's on the shadier side of the law, don't ever call him a criminal or compare him to common thugs, that's a wonderful way to end up in traction. He is first and foremost a professional, he is by definition above such scum because of his code. And for pete's sake, don't invoke a Contract on the Hitman. As for a professional in a legitimate profession, he might be ruthless, but he's never corrupt. He does not need to cheat or commit fraudulent actions; his skill places him beyond such petty strategies. Do note of the more violently employed professionals, having a code is not the same as being a Hitman with a Heart: not killing innocents might just be a matter of convenience and avoiding unnecessary trouble, not any kind of conscience talking. In fact, one trait that's almost universal to this kind of character is that every time he lets things get personal, it always comes back to bite him. Because his profession usually takes him places, expect a Consummate Professional to also be a Cunning Linguist and have connections to various other professionals who can provide services for him. If he's a killer who likes taking his targets out from a distance, he'll universally be a Cold Sniper and almost always has Improbable Aiming Skills.
— Locus, Red vs. Blue
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Anime And Manga
- Duke Togo, AKA Golgo 13. You contact him, you meet him, you pay him, he takes his target out. No questions, no strings attached, no target is off-bounds. If you choose to attach strings, he'll deny you his services or kill you for the trouble. Once a hit is on, he will go ahead with it, even if the client dies or attempts to call off the hit. Once he has accepted a contract, the only conclusion is with the target's death. Any attempt at betrayal is met with death.
- In one instance his target was falling from a skyscraper, certain to die on impact. Duke shot him in the head just before impact and completed the contract.
- Balalaika from Black Lagoon is a Mayfiya Don who runs her criminal organization like a hardened military unit... because they used to be one. Dutch as well, though his operation tends to focus on smuggling and other extra-legal errands. This is probably why the Lagoon Company and Hotel Moscow have such a good business relationship. Dutch openly states in the third episode that he'll work for anyone who pays his fees, and at one point knowingly does a job for a Nazi general.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes: Many of the characters are like this, but Paul von Oberstein is the most notable: he can calculate and order mass slaughter executed and suggest his own death without batting an eyelid.
- Sousuke in Full Metal Panic!. He also applies this level of professionalism to his cover identity as a high school student, with hilarious results.
- Played straight and subverted in the case of Kuroudou Akabane (a.k.a. Dr. Jackal) from Get Backers. He will take on any Courier job with no questions asked and carry it through to the end regardless of obstacles, is almost frighteningly competent at what he does and often describes himself as a consummate professional. But give him an opponent who he considers "worthy of his skills", and he'll decide to take certain...liberties with his assignment.
- The Gungrave anime shows us that Brandon Heat was this with Undying Loyalty when he was a hitman for Millenion. It causes problems with his best friend.
- Played straight and later averted with Mireille Bouquet of Noir. She starts out as an ice-cold professional killer (perhaps even more so than her significantly more competent partner Kirika Yuumura; Kirika doesn't know how she learned to kill or why, while Mireille is fully cognizant of the ethical implications of her chosen career). It isn't until the last few episodes that she starts to develop a heart at all, but when she finally does, look out.
- Mickey Simon in the Area 88 manga. For a soldier of fortune, Mickey has a strong professional code. He is loyal to his fellow pilots and politely turns down Rishar's offer to join the anti-government forces.
- Maken-ki!: Applies to the Venus Unit as a whole. As far as anyone knows, they've allied themselves with Kamigari, but it's only their cover. The fact is, they've been investigating Kamigari for years in order to uncover the truth about the source of Ouken Yamato's longevity. They're so discrete and efficient, that Ouken never suspected they were working against him.
- A rare example on the right side of the law: Judge Dredd. Don't break the law on his watch.
- Of the Marvel Universe mercs, Taskmaster is the one that most fits. Pretty much all the other mercs are nowhere near as professional or emotionally detached.
- Deathstroke The Terminator.
- Suicide Squad's Deadshot, when he's not in one of his Death Seeker moods. His handler, Amanda Waller, is one too.
- Lex Luthor's bodyguard, Mercy Graves, is usually this, though she betrays herself sometimes with a smirk or a mischievous smile.
- Wolverine has served countless times in the military, and has picked up a great many habits and skills with the years. Interestingly enough, he's always shown to be VERY serious and professional in that role, contrary to his usual authority-sticking personality. In fact, unless explicitly screwed by the hierarchy, he shows utmost respect for the chain of command. Captain America is one soldier in particular he respects immensely.
- Despite being a self employed vigilante, Frank Castle aka The Punisher exemplifies this trope. He fights vampires and ninjas with the same stoic frown he has when fighting petty thugs.
- The main character from the The Transporter movies usually tries to be this, but he always faces circumstances that force him to act against his code. He always regrets it, though, since he knows not adhering to his code always comes back to bite him.
- Subverted with Agent Smith in the The Matrix films: he acts that way because he's programmed to be that way. When he goes rogue, he becomes egomaniacal and emotional.
- Agent Kay in Men in Black, being a traditional Man in Black in contrast with impulsive, wisecracking new recruit Agent Jay.
- Wild Target: Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy), to a T. At least, until the Manic Pixie Dream Girl gets to him. Still, by the end he regained Consummate Professional status.
- The various assassins in the The Bourne Series. The one that comes to mind is The Professor, the guy with the trenchcoat and glasses who gets gunned down in the wheat field in Identity.
- The Jackal from (surprise surprise) The Day of the Jackal.
- In Scarface (1983), the hitman who killed Tony Montana seemed to be of this type.
- Ace Rothstein in Casino. This is at once his greatest strength and his undoing: it makes him a moneymaking machine, but it also makes him totally unable to tolerate unprofessionalism in his subordinates (even those whose continued employment is necessary to keep the local power structure happy).
- Up in the Air: Ryan Bingham is a "Career Transition Counselour". He mades you transit from your job into unemployment. Maybe that qualifies him like "evil". He is really good at his job because that let him be oblivious to his horrible, sad life.
- Léon, the titular character in LÉON: The Professional. Duh.
- Reservoir Dogs gives us Mr. Pink, who not only personifies this trope, but is obsessed with it. His primary argument throughout the film is that no one (except himself) is acting like a professional criminal. Some fans suspect that his obsessive attempts to act "professional" might actually be a cover for him being the least experienced of the criminals, and that he's going by the book (or the criminals' variation of it) because he's totally out of his depth.
- Another Tarantino example is Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction. Never will you see a man as calm and collected in the business of disposing dead bodies.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has Angel Eyes; while he's a vicious, cold-blooded killer, he does not fail to complete jobs when he's paid. In his first scene, he blows a man away after the man unsuccessfully tries to offer double what Angel Eyes's employer paid... and then pockets the money offered, goes back to his employer, and kills him. After all, he'd taken the money.
- Hot Fuzz: Nicholas Angel is a Deconstruction; being so dedicated to his job means he has no time for anything else and makes everyone else around him look bad, leading him to being reassigned to a quiet town in the country. He eventually mellows out a little after spending time with the comparatively more relaxed cops there.
- In a mostly non-violent example, Pepper Potts from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the Girl Friday. She's utterly Married to the Job, and that job is whatever Tony Stark needs her to be. From breaking into a supervillain's office to steal files to running a multi-billion dollar company so he can focus on his gadgets, Pepper can do it all. Despite clearly being Tony's love interest, she has a history of refusing to date him if his immaturity interferes with her job (and, by extension, his own). The only thing that she's missing is the stoic demeanor, though that's hardly her fault.
- Anita Blake: Most all of the security/bodyguards and assassins in the series, including Claudia and Edward, up to the point that many of them, unless you are actively trying to hurt them, won't kill you unless they are get paid for it. That would be giving out their services for free.
- The Parker Series, by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). Parker is a highly professional thief who plans out every detail of a heist. He also will not attempt to steal the take from his partners. Not because of ethical reasons but because he knows that they have to trust each other to pull off the heist. If you betray him then you're pretty much dead.
- Matt Helm: Matt, in the series by Donald Hamilton is a government assassin who takes great pride in his professionalism. He is probably the closest thing to Golgo 13 there is in American pop culture.
- Jared Kincaid of The Dresden Files is a thoroughly professional mercenary and has been one for centuries. Goodman Grey has a similar attitude, as once he's hired he will see a job through to the end. Fortunately, Harry got to him before the Denarians did.
- The Continental Op created by Dashiell Hammett. One of the toughest and most professional private detectives in literature. Pretty much to the extent that Hammett never gave him a name and he was known only by his job.
- Boba Fett is depicted this way in a number of the Star Wars novels.
- Belisarius in the Belisarius Series is a no-nonsense Combat Pragmatist who just wanted to be a blacksmith but as he can't do that, makes war in as practical a way as possible.
- In 1634: The Bavarian Crisis, Captain Raudegen, a soldier serving in the Bavarian military, is tasked with chasing down those who fled the duke, following two of them he spotted, even after he changes his allegiance from Bavaria to Duke Bernard, a foe of Bavaria. Toward the end of the novel, the two escapees meet the captain (now a Colonel) again shortly after finally losing him, when he's assigned to escort the group the two are with instead of hunt them down. One looks suspiciously at the colonel after realizing he's the one that's been chasing them, but the colonel replies "I'm a professional, boy. [...] When [Duke Bernard] says capture her, I try to capture her. When he says protect her, I use everything I know to protect her. Not just until your relative from Lyons joins her. All the way to Brussels," later adding that he's against cruelty for its own sake (though cruelty to gain information is perfectly reasonable to him, as demonstrated with his treatment of a blacksmith he thought had lied to him earlier).
- In the James Bond novel Thunderball Bond notes to Felix Leiter after touring Emilio Largo's yacht the Disco Volante, that its crew members don't drink or smoke, which indicates they are disciplined professionals.
- Bond himself was very professional in the novels in that he frequently chose completing his mission first over having casual sex with the Girl of the Week.
- A Song of Ice and Fire gives us many examples of the trope. There are Hired Guns, Private Military Contractors and straightforward assassins of various stripes and ideologies who live by a code. From the Hedge Knight who tries to stick to his vows while selling his lance/ sword/ horse/ whatever he's got to use for a meal, to the pit fighters in Essos (who, although slaves, definitely have honor-codes as well as their professional status to defend), to the Faceless Men who won't kill anybody not targeted as a "client" as part of the "prayer" or "petition" or "appeal" to their version of Death, to the sellsword who won't sell anything without a contract agreement upfront with stipulated termination clauses. But, for a single character? Take Ser Bronn of the Blackwater as an exemplar. He'll do practically anything to the best of his ability... as long as his price and operational conditions for it are met with remuneration enough to offset the difficulty/ social stigma/ other fallout/ any gaps in his skill-set. If it doesn't meet his criteria, he just won't agree to do it — at all. End of. Parachute clause engaged.
- This is the fundamental principle of the Assassins' Guild in Discworld. An assassin is a professional. They kill people for a money (a lot of money), and they do it in an efficient and sporting manner. It is acceptable to kill people for getting in the way of the client, but it's considered inelegant. Killing for any other reason means immediate expulsion and clienthood. After all, if people thought Assassins were also murderers, the whole understanding that allows the Guild to exist would collapse.
- Their motto is Nil Mortifi Sine Lucre, No killing without profit.
- Manticore Ascendant: Travis Long, in contrast to many of his fellows in the Royal Manticoran Navy, earning him a reputation as a highly capable stick in the mud.
- In his own way, Death from the Discworld. When he bends the rules, and he does so fairly often, it's because he believes that quality of customer service trumps adhering to the letter of regulations.
- A defining feature of the titular Witchers is that they are professional monster hunters. They ride in to a town, they take the contract, they research and deal with the problem, they take the agreed amount of money for their work, and they leave. They avoid personal entanglements and matters of religion and politics, so that they can continue to ply their trade anywhere in the world, without fear of being stopped. And when an ugly situation comes along that they cannot ignore, they still deal with it quickly and efficiently, and then move on.
Live Action TV
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is loaded with them, of various degrees:
- Agent Phil Coulson tries to keep this facade in front of his team, but he's actually a huge teddy bear and cares deeply for his team. He's VERY MUCH dedicated to his job though, a professional by function but not attitude if you will. Questioning his orders is a wonderful way to make him go into full-on agent mode, though.
- Victoria Hand, Iron Lady extraordinaire.
- Agent Melinda May is probably the biggest example of this trope. She HATES breaking professional demeanor, and keeps an Ice Queen image to avoid socialization.
- Agent Grant Ward, who prides himself as the specialist of Coulson's team, though he has had some big moments where emotion has gotten the best of him. But those moments are open to interpretation, since his reveal as a member of HYDRA.
- From House of Cards (US), we have Doug Stamper, Frank Underwood's Chief of Staff. Ruthlessly cold, calculating and efficient at his job, and has no problem getting his hands dirty to get things done. It's no wonder he's Frank's right-hand man. And true to the trope, when he lets his obsession with Rachel Posner, a call-girl mixed up in some of Frank's schemes, get the better of him is when things start to go fatally wrong for him.
- Wayne Jarvis from Arrested Development.
Wayne Jarvis: Well, I'm a professional. I am serious, and I'm a professional.Michael: That's fantastic. So, how long have you been ...?Wayne Jarvis: I also don't like small talk... why should I be billing you for small talk when I'm enjoying it as much as you are?Michael: Then, this must be a freebie 'cause I'm having a ball.Wayne Jarvis: When you're ready to get serious, give me a call.
- Oddly enough, Wayne Jarvis is caught having an affair with a client's wife shortly thereafter.
- 24: While situations try their damnedest to make him act otherwise, Jack Bauer always tries to be this, and shows surprising restraint in trying to keep his personal life and feelings out of his professional life.
- Everybody in Criminal Minds. Unprofessional cops who let their emotions cloud their judgement are usually the biggest obstacle the heroes face. In some ways it's part of the popularity of the show - when a character carries the Idiot Ball, the others notice.
- Bunk Moreland and Kima Greggs from The Wire, especially in comparison to Jimmy McNulty, a Cowboy Cop who's initially Bunk's partner in Homicide and later works alongside Kima in the Major Crimes Unit.
- Breaking Bad
- Subverted by Gus, who is characterized by his infallible cool and professional conduct. However, late in the series we learn that his entire operation is dedicated toward a white-hot rampage of revenge against the cartel that killed his best friend and humiliated him. His unprofessional need to gloat over his vengeance ultimately leads to his downfall.
- Mike, a Punch Clock Villain who just wants to do his job. He'll roll his eyes and sigh, but he's about as reliable as it gets.
- The arms dealer Walt buys his first gun from is very professional about the transaction and is actually reluctant to sell the gun to Walt, since Walt is still very much an amateur at that point.
- The "vacuum cleaner repairman" specializes in helping people obtain new identities and disappear. He is extremely methodical and professional about the entire process and hates deviating from his routine since that is likely to get him caught. He is willing to make an exception with Walt only because he is paid a lot of money for it.
- The River has Captain Kurt Brynildson. Don't touch his guns.
- Both Deputy US Marshals Rachel and Tim from Justified. The former is incredibly stoic with Nerves of Steel, while the latter is an ex-military Cold Sniper who takes pride in his work. At the beginning of the series their cool professionalism comes into stark contrast to Raylan's Cowboy Cop approach and the personal connections he has towards the people they question.
- In Healer, the titular Healer is this: he does jobs for people, asks no questions, requires no information beyond an objective or paycheck, and forgets whatever he does find out.
- Gen, of Street Fighter. Held the title of world's greatest assassin. He earned it.
- Team Fortress 2: Although played for laughs, The Sniper invokes this trope, providing a previous page quote.
- Mass Effect:
- Kaidan has to be repeatedly encouraged to speak freely in order to get any actual insight out of him. He's a lot less uneasy around people of lower rank, but someone of higher rank, like - say - Shepard...
- You can play Shepard this way in the all the games, often by ignoring the Paragon/Renegade dialogue options and going for the neutral options. You do suffer from a mild version of No Points for Neutrality for the first two games, but the third allows this approach unequivocally.
- Mass Effect 2 is filled with them:
- Kasumi Goto, the best thief in the business, not the most famous.
- Miranda Lawson, who basically lives by the book. Granted, it's Cerberus' book.
- Mordin Solus, whose loyalty mission is based around his professional and personal disgust with a former pupil.
- Samara, who basically gave up her life and rebuilt herself around her job as a Knight Templar.
- Thane Krios, who's been working as an assassin since he was twelve. He once expresses disgust with mercenaries who 'think painted armor makes them professionals'.
- And on the other hand, subverted with Zaeed. He acts like a calm, cool professional, but a Paragon Shepard can call him out on caring more about his grudge than he does about the mission. To his credit, being rebuked thusly causes Zaeed to postpone his revenge. Zaeed is a professional, but he isn't infallible.
- Shelly de Killer from Ace Attorney. This ends up used against the culprit in 2-4. When it turns out that his employer has been less than professional on his end of the assassin-client relationship, Shelly announces his intent to kill him.
- Manfred von Karma's family is like this. All of them treat life like the courtroom and get irked when someone else doesn't follow their protocol. Calisto Yew in Ace Attorney Investigations has no problem at laughing at Edgeworth's candor.
- Apollo Justice has shades of this. While he's quirky like literally everyone else in the franchise, he goes out of his way to be exceedingly professional and serious on the job and is rather ruthless in court. He dislikes when people get off track and shows deep disdain for Klavier Gavin since Gavin doesn't act like a serious professional in court. He's one of the characters who is extremely dedicated to his job of finding the truth, regardless of what the answer will be.
- The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas can be played this way.
- Solid Snake started as this, but eventually softened up with time. In contrast his daddy, Big Boss, started out as a goofy gullible naive soldier and hardens to becoming this trope by the end of his tenure.
- Alpha Protocol: Agent Thorton can be played this way by consistently choosing "Professional" responses in dialogue, ignoring more personal options in favor of pragmatism, and keeping his relationship with Mission Control business-like.
- Of the NPCs, Conrad Marburg embodies this trope. The quickest way to gain his respect is by being just as stone-cold professional as him. Alan Parker and Albatross are close to this trope, but they each have a Morality Pet that bring out It's Personal if they get killed or hurt. However, it is possible to push Marburg off the edge by consistently acting casual and unprofessional around him and dig up enough dirt on him to properly goad him into fighting you to the death.
- Many characters in Deus Ex are like this, but especially Walton Simons and The Men in Black. You can play JC Denton this way, too. The in-game written material in the FEMA HQ seems like a directed effort to get agents to think of themselves in these terms and thus avoid misgivings.
- L.A. Noire: A quite benign example to be sure, but Mal Carruthers, The Coroner is very much this trope. He takes his job dead serious.
- In Hitman, Agent 47 is this canonically, and the player is encouraged to play the game as such (only killing the assigned target via the most covert manner possible, leaving no witnesses or evidence) in order to get the best rating on missions. However, the player can just say "screw it" and massacre the entire level with a machine-gun while dressed as a clown if they want.
- The Master Chief is very much this. To quote Bungie artist Eddie Smith, John-117 is "pretty much the consummate professional. He does his job, walks off, doesn't even get the girl, he's that cool he doesn't need her." He is given an objective and ordered to "Win" and he will execute on that order to the best of his ability, pulling out a victory by any means necessary. He does so because he was raised to be one, along with all the other Spartan-IIs, and fights simply because that is who he is, rather than for any kind of profit or glory. In fact, he displays some discomfort at any media attention, preferring to conduct himself humbly but with absolute self-confidence.
- Jameson Locke is this too; he treats each assignment as just another job, whatever his private doubts are, and is particularly well-served by his ability to not hold grudges or take things personally.
- In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Wilhelm and Athena are professional mercenaries, though with different approaches. Wilhelm takes the emotionally-detached route, caring for nothing other than getting paid. Athena, while much more moral believes in seeing a job to the end despite any personal objections, which is the only reason she sticks around with Jack after he starts becoming more villainous (though by the end, vengeance is a partial motivator for both of them).
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this is a possible way to play the Bounty Hunter, as a professional mercenary who prioritizes killing for money over Mandalorian values and makes a point of fulfilling all contracts to the word while also trying not to judge their clients (which consists primarily of incompetent military officers and psychotic space wizards). Mako in particular tends to favor this approach, coupled with a bit of Hitman with a Heart.
- Mordecai Heller of Lackadaisy is a sociopathic professional killer.
"It was nothing so indulgent as a grand time. It was merely work ethic."
- Judy, the Doctor's gorilla secretary in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, is usually this. One particular moment has her immediately get back to work after being in a prolonged choke hold, with the Doctor commenting "So professional." Said work is bulldozing the bombed remains of their office. She does have her brief moments of unprofessional behavior, such as when Yoshi steals her clearly marked hot dogs, or when she encounters kittens in a box, or when Yoshi eats the kitten she adopts...
- № 1 from Hell(p) presents himself as this. Being the head of the Help Service, he always aims to appear collected and professional, handing out business cards left and right. He's mostly successful, seeing as he takes jobs from Hell's government. The rest of the gang is another story.
- Locus in seasons 11 & 12 of Red vs. Blue. He's a cold blooded killer, willing to wipe out a planet, but follows orders and doesn't care for evil gloating. As far as he's concerned, kill them and get it done with. His partner, Felix, on the other hand...not so much. Season 13 reveals, however, that deep down Locus is also a heavily traumatized soldier from his experiences fighting the Covenant in the Great War and acting the role of the professional is just as much a way to cope as it is a lifestyle, something that Felix exploits to keep him around.