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The lone hitman has long been a subject that has fascinated filmmakers, the outlaw who kills for his own reasons and lives by his own code. Why do filmmakers often explore this? Why has Jim Jarmusch done two movies on the subject? And why is someone who kills for money so fascinating?
Are there any I'm forgetting from the collection? What's your favorite existential hitman movie?
Alain Delon's performance is the definitive strong, silent hitman, inspiring Chow Yun-Fat in "The Killer," Forrest Whitaker in "Ghost Dog," and Isaach de Bankolé in "Limits of Control" to name a few. Melville opens the film with some made-up Eastern mumbo-jumbo that is effective nonetheless in setting up Delon as a romantic assassin, mysterious and compelling.
John Woo took the basic yarn of Melville's "Le Samouraï," and added in a liberal dose of balletic gun battles, taking the heroic bloodshed defined by Chang Cheh and putting guns in the killer's hands instead of swords. Chow Yun-Fat's cornered hitman is even willing to risk it all for a beautiful nightclub singer, but Woo fills his motivational gas tank with guilt.
Unlike the other characters on this list, Ben Gazzara's nightclub owner isn't a professional hitman, but is given an assignment to do so in order to square a debt, and kills out of desperation in order to save his pitiful status quo.
A hitman with a rice fetish and hamster cheeks. I'm still swirling this one around.
John Hurt plays a killer for the British mob, sent to bring an old rat living under protection to face the justice of his former bosses. Said rat is played by Terence Stamp, who goes along with it smugly, saying that he is ready to face death. But Hurt's character reveals himself to be the true Existentialist, while Stamp's rat reverts back to his nature.