Wanu (Lowe), a South American shaman from the Amazon rainforest, visits France for a public relations campaign to raise awareness about preservation of his forest and his people. He is accompanied by Jean Campana (Reno), a French ethnologist and environmentalist. In the Hotel Crillon's elevator in Paris, he meets a French good-for-nothing and incurable gambler named François Perrin (Bruel). He is fascinated by Perrin and follows him to his flat, and although Perrin is not very enthusiastic about so much interest in his person, he lets the shaman spend the night there.
After an official meeting on the next day as part of his PR campaign, Wanu suffers from a heart attack. Hardly being able to speak and laying in a hospital bed, he demands to see Perrin. The latter is not very interested in meeting the shaman again. However it looks like the shaman and Perrin seem to be tied mentally somehow. Campana decides to take Perrin to the Amazon forest in the hope of curing Wanu by "seeking his soul". Perrin accepts, but only because his life is threatened by gangsters he owes money to. Once they're in Brazil, Perrin and Campana find themselves confronting Kumare (Trejo), a ruthless tribe chief and gang leader who wants to steal the lands of Wanu's tribe.
Le Jaguar provides examples of:
- Animal Eyes: Perrin has these when he's possessed by Wanu's jaguar spirit and defeats Kumare.
- Animal Motifs: Jaguars, naturally. It is Wanu's totem, and for a very good reason.
- The Chosen Zero: Wanu chose Perrin as the jaguar spirit vessel who will help his tribe. To put it plainly, Perrin is initially a slimeball who only leaves France because his life is threatened by the loan sharks he owes money to, and initially shows little to no care about his mission in South America. He gets better over the course of the film.
- Loan Shark: Perrin's life is threatened by some ruthless gangsters he owes money to as he's Trapped by Gambling Debts, and it's the sole reason why he agrees to go to South America with Campana. Campana saves his butt right as he was ambushed by them at the airport.
- Machete Mayhem: Kumare uses a machete to chop off a hand at one point. He also beheads the priest with it later on.
- Narrator: Campana (Jean Reno) narrates how Perrin eventually chose to stay in the Amazon rainforest at the end.
- Nature Spirit: Wanu's jaguar spirit. It's even possible Wanu possesses the jaguar that eventually kills Kumare.
- Psychic Link: There is undeniably one between Perrin and Wanu. While Wanu is comatose, his body reacts to the injuries Perrin gets in his duel against Kumare and commands Perrin's sudden jaguar attacks on Kumare.
- Skeptic No Longer: Perrin doesn't believe in Wanu's rituals and religion/magic... until the climax.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Perrin is a gambling addict, and owes money to some loan sharks who don't hesitate to brutalize him to get their money back.