The Outside Man Blu-ray Review: Outsider Deray Crafts an Insider Look at 1970s L.A.

While this film may look like a typical 1970s U.S. crime drama at first glance, dig a little deeper and you’ll discover its unique French DNA. Directed and co-written by famed French helmer Jacques Deray, and headlined by French star Jean-Louis Trintignant above the knockout U.S. cast, the foreign outsiders show us the seedy side of LA through a fresh prism.

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Right from the opening aerial shot of L.A.’s Music Center, I was amazed by both how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in the City of Angels. The Music Center looks almost exactly as it does today, but its surrounding area 50 years ago was surprisingly green and open, with none of the skyscrapers that surround it now. Deray’s lens captures plenty more historic vistas, from a seemingly bombed-out pier to crummy apartments, from dive bars to hilly narrow streets over canals. Even though he was clearly embedded in L.A. for the exterior-heavy production, he avoids the typical tourist touchstones, providing a time capsule of the mean streets less traveled.

Trintignant plays a conflicted French hitman dispatched to L.A. to knock off a mob boss. Upon completion of his hit, he quickly learns that his employment is no longer required, as a rival hitman (Roy Scheider) pursues him throughout the city. This brings him into contact with Ann-Margret, a stripper and associate of a trusted friend back in France, who tries to help him get out of town. Scheider’s character has remarkable luck tracking him down wherever he goes, creating a deadly game of cat and mouse played out all over the greater Los Angeles area.

In addition to the leads, Deray’s amazing cast includes Angie Dickinson as the daughter-in-law of the deceased mob boss and a very young Jackie Earle Haley as the son of an innocent bystander temporarily kidnapped by the French hitman. Also watch for bit parts by Talia Shire and John Hillerman. Although the supporting cast is incredible, the film succeeds thanks entirely to the three leads pictured on the cover.

Trintignant’s hitman character is all carefully guarded, nervous energy. He never wanted to be a hitman, and wants nothing more than to escape back to the safety of France. Scheider is impeccable as the rival hitman, so steely and cool that he seems unbeatable. Ann-Margret plays her role as world-weary and wise, recognizing her character’s fading physical attributes can be compensated for with her significant mental prowess. It’s great fun watching these three disparate characters play off each other as they race to an action-packed finale.

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray comes in a unique configuration, containing two versions of the film on two discs. The first disc is the 112-minute uncut U.S. version formatted at 1.85:1, while the second disc contains the 111-minute cut in French formatted at 1.66:1, Un Homme Est Mort. Trintignant is the only major French acting presence in the film, and it’s surprisingly light on dialogue overall, so either version will provide equally enjoyable thrills. The film has been newly restored from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, providing a spectacularly robust presentation of this wholly enjoyable film. While there are no bonus features, a commentary track is included from a few film historians.

Deray’s outsider approach to 1970s Los Angeles is completely engaging, from the vast amount of exterior scenes to the pitch-perfect performances contributed by his insanely stacked cast. Even at nearly two hours in length, the film is a taut, engrossing ride that never lets up.

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Steve Geise

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