Saturday, December 27, 2014

Leon, The Professional

Movie Name: Leon, The Professional
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Michael Badalucco, Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Regen, Peter Appel, Don Creech, Randolph Scott
Genre: Crime, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Luc Besson and his EuropaCorp are currently well known for quite a few franchises that have been quite successful, namely "The Transporter", "Taken" and "Taxi", but in the early 90s, the director was establishing his own name as a writer/director. "Leon, The Professional" followed one of his biggest hits, "La Femme Nikita" (which was remade in the US by John Badham, and re-titled "Point of No Return"), and again focused the attention on a hired killer. The film follows the methodical and asocial Leon, who is faced with a new situation in his perfectly controlled life - he has to train and take care of a young girl by the name of Mathilda. This situation arises because her family is savagely murdered by a corrupt cop, and the little girl finds herself with no one else to ask help from. She learns the trade from Leon, hoping to exact revenge upon the man who destroyed her life.
Luc Besson has steadily been creating stories where the female characters are the driving forces in most of the narratives he devises (his latest "Lucy" is no exception). In "Leon, The Professional", Jean Reno's killer is almost a recluse, and keeps social contact to a whisper, something that the intruder portrayed by Natalie Portman (in her feature debut) throws into disarray. The film, though shot in New York, is very much a European director's vision of the American reality, namely with certain situations and set pieces very stylized and hyperbolic in the violence that it depicts. It is nonetheless, an engaging and entertaining piece of cinema, one that expands a thin premise into a story about an isolated man learning to love, and a young girl growing up and understanding the hardships and brutality of life. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman are both excellent in their roles, as is Gary Oldman portraying the sadistic and corrupt cop (he would go on to work with Luc Besson also on "The Fifth Element"). A solid action film, always worth revisiting.