Léon: The Professional (1994)

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Critic Consensus: Pivoting on the unusual relationship between seasoned hitman and his 12-year-old apprentice -- a breakout turn by young Natalie Portman -- Luc Besson's Léon is a stylish and oddly affecting thriller.

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As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn't much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy. Wanting to avenge the death of her brother, Mathilda makes a deal with Leon to become his protégée in exchange for work as a domestic servant, hoping to learn the hitman's trade and take out the men who took her brother's life. However, an affection develops between Leon and Mathilda that changes his outlook on his life and career. Besson's first American film boasted a strong performance from Jean Reno, a striking debut by Natalie Portman, and a love-it-or-hate-it, over-the-top turn by Gary Oldman. Léon was originally released in the U.S. in 1994 as The Professional, with 26 minutes cut in response to audience preview tests. Those 26 minutes were restored in the director's preferred cut, released in 1996 in France as Léon: Version Intégrale and in the U.S. on DVD as Léon: The Professional in 2000. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Gary Oldman
as Stansfield
Michael Badalucco
as Mathilda's Father
Ellen Greene
as Mathilda's Mother
Elizabeth Regen
as Mathilda's Sister
Carl J. Matusovich
as Mathilda's Brother
Carl John Matusovich
as Mathilda's Brother
Keith A. Glascoe
as Stansfield's Man
Abdul Hassan Sharif
as Mathilda's Taxi Driver
Stuart Rudin
as Leon's Taxi Driver
Kent Broadhurst
as Policeman
Tommy Hollis
as Policeman
Peter Linari
as Security Man
Betty Miller
as Orphanage Headmistress
Joseph Malerba
as Stairway Swat
David W. Butler
as Important Jogger
Randy Pearlstein
as Security Guard
Marc Andreoni
as SWAT Team
Samy Naceri
as SWAT Team
Jernard Burks
as Stansfield's Man
George Martin
as Receptionist
Robert La Sardo
as Client #1
Mario Todisco
as Tony's Barber
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News & Interviews for Léon: The Professional

Critic Reviews for Léon: The Professional

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (17)

Leave it to french writer-director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita) to put a kinky twist on Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks.

Jun 4, 2014

Ultimately, like La Femme Nikita, there may be less here than meets the eye. But what does meet the eye is pretty darn thrilling.

Jun 4, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The sheer craziness and excessiveness of the movie -- no crazier, perhaps, than many of the American action movies it copies -- never finds a center of gravity.

Jun 4, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The Professional is strictly amateur-hour.

Jun 4, 2014 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

Like Quentin Tarantino, Besson has a singular style and directorial sensibility that keeps you watching.

Jun 4, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The most objectionable thing is Gary Oldman's performance, baroque in its awfulness. Almost as bad is the director's attempt to construct a visual style -- and, for that matter, characters -- by piling one mannerism on top of another.

Jun 4, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Léon: The Professional

Typical actioner in that one guy takes out a whole bunch of other guys, that has at its core the relationship between a man/boy assassin and a child wise beyond her years ... it was a touch difficult to watch. Besson hides his knocking-on-the-door-of-depravity Lolita tale behind the old conceit "she wanted it." Handle this one with care.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

With a very interesting, yet simple premise, "Leon: The Professional" is a very smart, stylistic thriller about a young girl whose family has been murdered. Trying to cope with that while being on the run by a hitman who is saving her life, the bonding between the two is unlike anything you will get in most films out there, from any generation. I loved this picture from start to finish. From it's extremely drab look, to the creepy vibe Leon gives, even though you know his intentions are great, this is one film you surely shouldn't miss. In the end, this is one of the best films in this genre that I have ever seen. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman are phenomenal, the script is undeniably brilliant, and the score will have your heart racing, even in moments you would least expect. The final act of this film had me on the edge of my seat, and I believe it will do that for everyone. I highly recommend this film to fans and non-fans of this genre. "Leon: The Professional" is a brilliant picture.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

Cute - a 12 year old hitman. Natalie Portman plays Mathilda - a kid who is orphaned by a crooked cop. Leon is the loner "cleaner" and Leon and Mathilda become a family with Mathilda learning the trade.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

½

Professional killer Jean Reno reluctantly takes in a 12 year old girl after her family is murdered by corrupt police detectives. Luc Besson's mix of offbeat characters, humour and high octane action tends to be a little hit and miss, but in Leon he found the perfect balance between sensitive character study, emotion and tense action sequences. Pot plant loving, milk drinking loner Reno is the antithesis of the usual testosterone-soaked, gung-ho action hero and with no glib one liners or macho posturing, he takes no pleasure in the mayhem he induces; he's just very, very good at it. His relationship with a young Natalie Portman is sincere, funny and touching, and although emotionally ambiguous (at least from her adolescent point of view), it never crosses the line into sexual creepiness. Complimented by an excellent supporting cast, especially pill popping psychopath Gary Oldman who is the perfect foil for Reno's solitary hitman, and wonderfully scored Leon is easily Besson's best work and one of the best action thrillers around.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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