And while the lunkheaded footballer isn’t, he’s there in spirit as the film is set in Northwest London, minutes from his hometown of Watford.
But superficial similarities aside, The Profesional is a psychological profile, a brooding, glacial character study of a hitman, or “cleaner.” In this dystopian present, not entirely well-explained, contract killing is legal.
And a couple of earnest documentarians are profiling laconic Eli Shepard, a bald everyman who’s knocked off, in his estimation, upwards of 200 people.
Why does he do this? He has the right temperament. And he was recruited. We don’t get too many details as let’s be honest here: this isn’t Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He does say killing is like “eating a sandwich.”
And his favorite weapon? A four-pound axe he’s named Matilda which gets the job done with one clean blow to the head, incapacitating the victim (unless 3-4 more shots are required).
He gets his morbid assignments hilariously, via a government functionary who deposits the info on a bench in a brown envelope by a duck pond. And this, to the plumping score not unlike the tuba that introduces Curb Your Enthusiasm (the music is absolutely great here generally, particularly the Guthrie standard, “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?”)
Eli is Hebrew for “my god,” and this hitman controls who lives and who dies, methodically stalking his victims (but first making sure he’s got their proper identities – he’s nothing if not thorough), following them throughout the course of their day, from work to the pub and down through alleys.
One gets the impression the filmmaker knows the streets of Northwood, London well. It’s a pretty unremarkable borough but the locales are used to great effect.
We recently reviewed The Demolisher, a psychological trip inside the cranium of a vigilante, a neat reboot of that much-maligned genre many see as reactionary.
The Profesional covers similar ground and it’s definitely a bold idea.
The extended version could use a bit of a trim, but nothing out of the ordinary. The movie is launched with a quote from Plato, who also said that a good life is a harmonious one achieved through order and balance. An unbalanced Eli imposes order here.
***1/2 (out of 5)