Also known as: Léon (original title), The Professional (alternative title)
Release Date: September 14th, 1994 (France, Mexico)
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Music by: Eric Serra
Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello, Michael Badalucco
Gaumont, Les Films du Dauphin, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes
“I don’t wanna lose you, Léon.” – Matilda, “You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Matilda. Please, go now, baby, go. Calm down, I’ll meet you at Tony’s in an hour, I love you, now go, go now.” – Léon
While I need to rewatch The Fifth Element in the very near future because I surprisingly haven’t reviewed it yet, I’d have to say that Léon: The Professional is probably my favorite Luc Besson movie.
I first saw this when it came out to rent on VHS and upon seeing it, I had wished that I actually got to experience it on the big screen.
The four main actors in this are phenomenal. Jean Reno is perfectly cast and this is still the greatest thing that I’ve seen him do. Natalie Portman proved, at a very young age, that she had what it took to carve out a pretty stellar career, which she has. Gary Oldman absolutely shined as the movie’s antagonist and came across as a legitimately intimidating, psychotic, piece of shit. Danny Aiello wasn’t in the picture for more than a few scenes but he came across as the real veteran, making those who shared scenes with him even better. I especially liked the exchange between Aiello and Portman.
What’s really odd for me, at least, is that I’ve never been a big Portman fan and I think a lot of that stems from what felt like disinterest in some of the roles she’s played like in the Star Wars and Thor movies she’s done. But here, she is impressive and fully displayed her talent and how good she can be when she cares about the material she has to work with.
This is a violent but tender movie and the fact that it is able to balance the two things so perfectly is what makes it really damn good.
Additionally, the hitman stuff comes across as authentic and genuine. I love the opening of the movie, which shows you how great Léon is at his job. The action is intense and, at times, over the top and stylized for a greater cinematic effect but everything in the movie still feels real and plausible.
I also like the coming of age stuff and how Matilda is entering her teen years, having to deal with that, while also having to survive her family being murdered and essentially being on the run from a very dangerous madman with a police force at his disposal.
There are just a lot of layers to this movie but everything comes together so wonderfully. The fact that it’s so well acted and meticulously directed also makes it a film worthy of its strong cult status.