Léon: The Professional Reviews
It is stylish, darkly humorous, and almost artsy in its approach to the genre.
Leon (Reno) is a contract killer and is seemingly content with his minimal social life. However, when his young and impressionable 12 year old neighbour Matilda (Natalie Portman) comes home to find her family has been killed by corrupt cop and drug dealer Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman), she runs to him for help. The closer they become, the sooner she discovers Leon's profession and asks him to teach her the skills so that she can have revenge on her family's killer.
From the off-set, Besson's visual style is clearly apparent and he makes wonderful use of New York locations with regular cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. He also allows the characters to blossom and creates and endearing friendship that serves as the heart of the film. Both Reno and especially a young Portman (in her film debut) are marvellous as the unlikely pairing but while they share some genuinely heartfelt moments, the boundaries are blurred with an uncomfortable, sexual subtext between them. Granted, this is formed through the romanticised eyes of a 12 year old and Leon is entirely innocent but it adds a different edge to their sentimental relationship. On the periphery, is the inclusion of a scenery-chewing Gary Oldman that adds a real sense of danger to the proceedings. His performance has been criticised for over-acting but personal I thought he was superb and it's ranks as one of my favourites from him.
What's most impressive about the film is Besson's assured hand and his ability in framing a scene; seemingly insignificant details play a massive part in the sheer beauty of this film while the dynamic music score by Eric Serra is a perfect accompaniment for Besson's sumptuous attention to detail and deliberate approach. Action movies rarely have such style but this is one that starts and ends with a bang and delivers a warm and affecting emotional core in-between.
A stylish, captivating and emotionally complex film that could comfortably be described as an art-house thriller.
Excellent Film! The performance delivered by then twelve-year old Natalie Portman as Mathilda is nothing short of brilliant. Her ability to relate to others with body movement and facial gestures is matched by few, she really brings raw emotion and believability to a difficult role. Mathilda and Léon are unexpectedly thrown together, but learn to value life from their chance encounter, and how valuable a friendship can be.
The Professional is what movie-making is all about. Without the overuse of special effects, a large shooting location, or a commercially star studded cast, we are given all that could possibly be asked for in a movie. Portman, Oldman, and Reno, along with Danny Aiello as the hit-contractor Tony remind us that there is no substitute for great acting. There are elements of comedy, drama, and action, and great original music by Eric Serra adds to the energy the film already encapsulates. The most impressive thing about the movie is its story which is basic but is maximized by all the other elements which go into the making of the movie. Simply put, an intense and impressive movie.
Leon is an Italian immigrant who fled Italy after having committed a crime there. He now resides in New York City and is working for the mob boss "Uncle" Tony. He lives with his favorite plant in a small apartment in the city next door to a girl he occasionally speaks to whose father is a drug dealer working with crooked DEA officers. One day when she's out getting groceries the crooked agents murder her entire family in a botched drug deal and upon discovering the massacre upon her return home she walks to the end of the hall to Leon's apartment who let's her into not only his home, but into his life as well. Soon enough he's teaching Mathilda, a young girl, how to be a professional hitman in order for her to learn enough to get revenge on the crooked cops who murdered her family. But when she goes in for revenge and is captured by the crooked agents, Leon comes and saves her and so begins the ultimate theme in the movie: Will Leon and Mathilda live happily ever after now that's she's opened up his heart, or will the crooked cops have something to say about it?
Bottom line: Watch this film. It made me sad, made me laugh, made me curl up against my housemates (dreading the exquisite tension in the action choreography, and dreading the ever-entertaining Gary Oldman) but was not so violent that I had to cover my eyes at any point. Must watch again.
Not as good as the best Luc Besson film though... you know the one I mean.