Jean-Pierre Melville has a great knowledge and fondness for Yank pix, especially gangster items. Here he uses an American book [by Joan McLeod] on a hired killer and transposes it to France for a curiously hybrid pic. It almost seems to be an American film dubbed into French, with some strange effects in altering the French scene to appear American, in such things as night clubs, sordid little hotels, police lineups and the general comportment of the personages.
It is intermittently successful. Without a true French gangster core that would breed this sort of automaton killer, Melville extends it to try to compare him to the Japanese samurai dedicated to military codes.
Alain Delon has the empty agate eyes, cold demeanor and implacable presence for the glacial killer who manages to spark love in a part-time kept woman, and becomes the prey of a dedicated, unswerving police inspector. Melville does wring some suspense as the killer tries to gun down his ex-employers and is also being hounded by the police.
Nathalie Delon is somewhat too frigid as the killer’s mistress while Cathy Rosier has presence and poise as a comely pianist. Francois Perier, a comedian, is cast against type as the almost fanatical inspector but manages to acquit himself acceptably.