Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette

(pb; 1981, 2002. Translated from the French by James Brook.)

From the back cover:

"Martin Terrier is a hired killer who wants out of the game - so he can settle down and marry his childhood sweetheart. After all, that's why he took up this profession! But 'the company' won't let him go: they have other plans. Once again, the gunman must assume the prone firing position. A tour of force, this violent tale shatters as many illusions about life and politics as it does bodies."


This Gallic-in-tone thriller is underlined with a mordant and absurdist sense of humor. Its often cruel and cold characters' actions and near-the-end startling plot pretzels are funny (in a quasi-bleak way), even as Manchette's stripped-to-the-cinematic-bone writing chills and highlights the novel's aforementioned qualities.

Prone is not your typical hitman-isn't-allowed-to-retire work, so readers -- especially Americans -- perhaps used to politically rigid and brutally earnest action-political thrillers, may want to bear this in mind before picking up Prone up. Its brutal, succinct philosophy, when mixed with its other exposed-core qualities, makes this an excellent read, one worth owning.


Two films have resulted from this novel.

The first version, Le choc, was released in France on April 28, 1982. (It is also known by the titles Contract in Blood and Shock.) It was directed by Robin Davis and an uncredited Alain Delon (who also -- credited -- played the lead role of Martin "Christian" Terrier).

Catherine Deneuve played Claire. Phillipe Léotard played Félix. Etienne Chicot played Michel. Jean-Louis Richard played "Maubert, l'inspecteur de la DST". François Perrot played Cox. Féodor Atkine played "Borévitch, dit 'Boro'". Dany Kogan played Rosana.


The second version, The Gunman, is scheduled for stateside release on March 20, 2015. Pierre Morel directed the film from a script by Don MacPherson and Pete Travis.

Sean Penn played Jim Terrier (cinematic stand-in for Martin Terrier). Javier Bardem played Felix. Mark Rylance played Cox. Ray Winstone played Stanley. Idris Elba also co-starred in the film, but imdb hasn't listed his role (as of this writing).

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