Leon: the Professional (1994)

June 21, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

A hitman is cold, calculating and becomes the epitome of loneliness if he’s good enough to be at the top. Leon is one of those characters that’s a clear walking contradiction, as he is as ruthless and dangerous as he is caring. In Luc Besson’s best effort, Leon: the Professional, the hitmanĀ  is humanized to be somebody to truly care about. A tragic figure with an admirable courage and simplicity. Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman give outstanding performances in their respective roles in this compelling piece about a hired Grim Reaper.

Besson hasn’t directed anything better yet, as he juggles drama, action and comedy with an effortless grace. The way he orchestrates his action is through the perspective of the clients. To them, Leon is a ghost, weaving his way in and out with a slick touch of death. The tension is built up when Leon is on the prowl, and the style is purposeful. In addition, the soundtrack compliments the tension and action well, as the strings give the action more emotion, adding to the build-up of the hits. The script is also something to admire, because it naturally builds up the relationship of the two main characters, Leon and Mathilda, and doesn’t place them in a neat relationship-labeled box.

There are three very different, very powerful performances given in this film. First off is Gary Oldman playing the corrupt cop, Stansfield. Oldman chews the scenery with ample bites, creating a villain that projects perfect menace with a magnetic quirkiness. He’s so phenomenal at being the “bad guy” that he’s beyond it, and he enjoys himself as he commands the screen. Next there’s Natalie Portman playing Mathilda, a troubled child whose broken family has just been murdered by Stansfield. Portman is amazing as the neglected child turned orphan with a yearning for connection and a lust for vengeance. Portman tugs at our heartstrings with a risque role. Lastly, there’s the title role of Leon, played quietly by the underated Jean Reno. Everything is in his facial expressions, as he is a subtle and isolated man, that just happens to be the best hitman in town. The chemistry between Leon and Mathilda feels authentic, as their relationship becomes something that has no real label besides Leon being the protector. They simple care for each other.

Leon: the Professional paints a picture of loneliness, and an unexpected hope for that loneliness coming from another type of darkness altogether. This is an action film with heart, making every bloody bullet hit that much harder, and every fist thrown sting greater. Leon is a killer turned guardian, and his story will leave you emotional, satisfied, and completely riveted.

Potential Drawbacks:

The relationship between Leon and Mathilda walks the line of taboo, and Portman does some things that may seem inappropriate to those that think in a conventional manner. Also, If you want your action films brainless and empty, this isn’t the action film to watch.

Film Recommendations:

Taxi Driver
the American

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