Having worked successfully with Jean-Paul Belmondo
(1973), the journalist-turned-director
Philippe Labro was keen to work with Belmondo again and proposed a hard-edged crime thriller
initially entitled Les Animaux dans la jungle
. Belmondo was attracted
by Labro's initial script, but asked him to emphasise the solitary nature of the character
he would play, L'Alpagueur, which would also become film's title. This would be
the first in a series of tough guy roles which Belmondo would take on over the course of the next decade
and a half, in films invariably named after the character played by the star actor -
notably Le Professionnel (1981)
Le Solitaire (1987)
is a slick thriller with a great deal of artistic flair and
some spectacular action scenes, it is slightly marred by its uneven pacing and thin characterisation.
Little, if anything, is explained about the motives of any of the characters in the film
and this weakens its interest value. That said, the film boasts a strong performance
from Jean-Paul Belmondo, and also his co-star Bruno Cremer, who is chillingly brutal in
the role of the psychopath-criminal, L'Epervier.
The film is notable for being the first which Belmondo was the sole producer. The
combined pressures of being lead actor and producer took a severe toll on Belmondo's health
during the making of this film. In the film's main action sequence (where L'Apagueur
is running after a petrol tanker to rescue his accomplice), Belmondo is clearly in agony.
A few days before, the actor had suffered a serious back injury, but he kept this to himself
in order not disrupt the filming schedule.
The film is less a traditional French "polar" and much more a latterday Western, transposed
to bleak locations in Northern France. The influence of Jean-Pierre Melville and
Sam Peckinpah - two directors whom Labro admired greatly - are clearly noticeable throughout
the film. The cold brutality of the film's main characters, the paucity of dialogue and
the director's icy detachment are distinctively Melvillesque, and Labro freely admitted
that one extended sequence was intended as a homage to Peckinpah's film Gateway
Although it is now regarded as one of Belmondo's better action films, L'Alpagueur
initial release proved to be a major disappointment for its director and producer.
The film was badly received by film critics and proved not to be a great commercial success,
in spite of the fact that Belmondo was at the height of his popularity.
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"L'Alpagueur" is the code name for Roger Pilard, a bounty hunter who works for the French
security services on cases where "conventional" police methods have failed...