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Gripping story with well-crafted characters
Methos-716 May 1999
Luc Besson's movie Léon (The Professional) gives us an intense story which is maximized in potential by the casting of the movie done by Todd Thaler. Every aspect of the movie delivers to the audience and makes an impressive overall package. Jean Reno plays a character named Léon who has learned to repress his emotions in order to perform his job as a "cleaner", or hit-man. His secluded world is shattered by the young girl named Mathilda who lives on the same floor as he does in an apartment building. When she turns to him for help, he learns about living a normal life, even if the circumstances which unite them are far from normal.

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.

Jean Reno as Léon gives us a solemn and calculated character who sets all of his energy on his assignments until her is given something else to care about. Mathilda gives him the daughter that he never had, while Léon serves as a father and friend to her. Gary Oldman, as the corrupt DEA Agent Norman Stansfield, offers the viewers an amazingly wired and electrical performance which pushes the envelope. He moves the story along by his actions. Oldman offers us a memorable portrait of a sadistically obsessed man who stops short of nothing to get what he wants.

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.
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A shameful praise of a fantastic film.
Insincere Dave21 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Leon (Jean Reno) is a tortured soul. He lives in squalor and misery, never truly happy or at peace with himself. After all, he is a hitman. He lives quietly from kill to kill, harming no-one whom he has not been paid to assassinate. He is a simplistic, childlike man who lives by his own set of morals but is troubled by them. The one thing he seems to fear above all else is change.

Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is Leon's neighbour. A young girl, she lives with her father, step-mother, half-sister and half-brother. As unhappy as Leon, she lives in awe of the dark stranger, unaware of his true profession. Beaten by her parents and sister, she has abandoned school and instead spends the day watching cartoons and trying to escape from the real world.

When Mathilda's family is brutally murdered by a drug crazed Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman), her only chance for survival is to hide with her neighbour. When she learns of Leon's true identity, she becomes infatuated with both him, and the grim world he inhabits.

This stark portrayal of humanity and inhumanity is produced with the style and finesse that one expects from Luc Besson. In addition, the combined talents of Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman provide not only an unmatched on-screen chemistry, but also three perfectly created characterisations, the like of which are rarely seen in today's cinema. This film has my personal recommendation of being the best piece of cinema that I know of. I have not seen anything that matches it in terms of intensity or emotion - and believe me, I've looked. I found myself caring for the characters involved, an unique experience in itself. This is not the type of film for a night in with your mates, but nevertheless, it is an unforgettable piece of cinematic history.
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tjcclarke29 March 2004
I have long thought that owning films on DVD or video is a waste of money - you watch them once and after that they are left to fester at the back of a cupboard. Occasionally I make an exception - some films simply cannot be fully appreciated on just one viewing. Every time I watch Leon is as gripping and enjoyable as the first. Sad, funny, violent, incredibly touching - few films manage to tick all the boxes and even fewer are about hitmen.

It obviously helps when your leading man has as much screen presence as Jean Reno. Thin and wiry with toilet brush hair and a face like a bag of spanners, he is hardly your typical gun-toting action hero, but he has an innocence and compassion that makes you fall for him instantly. Leon's life is as simple as a small child's: TV, lashings of milk and the odd gangland assassination. He cannot read, he doesn't sleep, he hasn't the trappings of family or wealth (the fees for his hits are habitually trousered by his `benefactor': sleazy small-time Italian gangster Tony (Danny Aiello)) - In short, he lives like a robot. And then he meets Mathilda.

Normally I can't stand Hollywood kids. They are all doey-eyed, bouffant-haired brats who can cry on cue and are always ready with a cutesy, smart-alec comment that will cause their adult co-stars to tinkle with laughter or tousle their hair playfully. Often they are kidnapped and huge ransoms demanded while their parents go demented with worry. I for one am usually rooting for the kidnappers.

Natalie Portman's Mathilda is the antithesis of these namby-pamby Dawson's Creek actors-in-waiting. For starters, she has something justifiable to gripe about, in that her entire family has just been slaughtered by Gary Oldman and his gang of crooked DEA officers. This is a bit of a blow, to say the least, but Mathilda takes it all in her stride and teams up with Leon in a bid for revenge. So begins one of the stranger relationships in silver screen history, but one of the most memorable.

On the face of it, a love story between a twelve year old girl and a hairy French hitman would raise a few eyebrows among more conservative movie-goers, but director Luc Besson handles it so beautifully, it seems like the most natural thing on earth. They are united in being totally alone in the world - indeed, the scene where Mathilda walks quietly down the corridor past the carnage in her apartment and knocks on Leon's door, imploring him in a tearful whisper to let her in is as breathtaking as it is heartbreaking. Leon is wary at first, but she soon wins him round and starts to gently bring him out of the shell.

Portman is truly astonishing - one can almost forgive her for being a part of the appalling Star Wars prequels on the strength of this one performance. The iconic image of this tiny, grubby little girl clutching Leon's beloved plant and trotting to keep up with her lanky hero's giant strides is one that will live long in the memory.

Aiello and Oldman (at his sadistic, malevolent best) provide predictably excellent support, there is a wonderfully suspenseful yet satisfying ending - heck, there's even a decent Sting song playing over the credits - for this (if nothing else) it would be remiss of me to give Leon anything other than top marks.

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Visceral and intelligent - Besson's masterpiece
Twinsen6119 January 2004
Leon is one of the most emotionally intense movies ever made. French director Luc Besson uses everything: actors, music, camera angles, lighting to create an unique experience - "It's not realism, it's not naturalism - it's heightened reality" as Gary Oldman very well put it.

In "The making of The Professional" Besson says "If I imagine somebody in the street try to knock on my daughter, I kill the guy, in five seconds. I kill him, and I think "It's in me, I'm a beast!" On this part we can't forget that a part of us, the genetic things inside are much, much older than The Ten Commandments". He certainly uses visceral scenes to create very strong emotion in the movie - the blood running from Mathilda's nose or Stansfield's unforgettable "EVERYONE!" are just a couple of examples. The music and the sound are excellent and are used in a masterly fashion - you can hear Fatman's heart beating desperately or a low claustrophobic sound when Stansfield turns to look at Mathilda's father.

However Leon does not work only on this primary level, it also has an intelligent story. It may seem to be almost a fairy-tale, but don't be fooled - just like his character Besson is serious. This movie has a message: without love we are dead, even if we don't see it. Only true love give meaning to our lives: "everything else reminds me a big yogurt: warm and rancid" as Mathilda says in the original script, which is available on the net under the name Leon Version 1. Is this true in "real life"? I don't know but this movie can make you wonder.

Then of course there's the sensuality. It's hypocritical to deny it, the camera interacts with Mathilda in a mesmerising fashion. It's not sick and it's not degrading: it's art, subtle and beautiful.

Leon is not perfect but it has so many great moments that all its flaws can be forgiven. It's a movie that really should not be missed, unless you are concerned with its amorality. And don't be - Leon is less violent than many action movies and the unusual relationship between the main characters is handled mostly with genuine feeling and tact.
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Very well executed
cdsmith-227 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This film was absolutely amazing. I have spent hours re-watching various scenes and noticing all the perfection with which they are acted and directed. It's not the violence or action sequences that make this movie so great (although they are well done...), but rather moments like where Mathilda knocks on Leon's door. It would be so easy to just film the door opening, but instead we see light illuminating Natalie Portman's face, symbolizing something angelic. And the moment has so much more meaning.

I know a lot of people who have seen this film because they are action fans. I'm not. But I'm glad I finally found it, because it's a wonderful film in so many other ways.
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An Action Film For Lovers
robbijean24 November 2000
Warning: Spoilers
With enough blood and gore to please any fan of action movies, and a unique love story to please the ladies, this is a great movie for couples to watch together. However, to truly comprehend the beauty of this film, you must see the European Cut.

The U.S. version is still a great movie, but it cuts out 24 minutes which contain much of the heart of the movie and most of what makes the film a work of art instead of the usual action fodder. Elements of the story which are only hinted at in the U.S. cut become the centerpiece of the story when the un-cut version is seen.

The two main characters are a recently-orphaned girl who is wise beyond her years and a hitman who is still an innocent. Their relationship unfolds against a backdrop of murder and revenge as director Luc Besson explores issues of age and maturity, good and evil, and the interplay of life, death and love.

The acting in this film is superb. Reno has an expressive face which conveys a myriad of emotions with great sensitivity and few words. He is cold as ice as the almost super-human 'professional', but his performance is most moving when he reveals his sensitive side. Watching as his wounded soul slowly begins to heal is enough to touch the heart of any woman, but it is handled so subtly that it never becomes too 'sappy'.

In her film debut, Natalie Portman turns in a performance that is beautiful beyond belief. She manages the transition from a frightened child to a woman capable of killing so convincingly that it makes the relationship between she and Leon not only believable, but understandable.

Gary Oldman is just the best psycho there is, and it is kind of nice to see him without all the strange makeup for a change. As a dirty cop in this film he personifies evil, and it is a joy to watch him do his thing.

The special effects are all you could hope for. Besson does great actions scenes - especially the explosions. There is also a lot of humor and when you throw in the tender love story - this picture has it all!
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Where are the accolades?
jcapelli16 July 2002
This movie is rated 63 on the imdb top 250 movie list, showing that people obviously like this movie, and with good reason. But why the hell didn;t this movie garner at least one single oscar or golden globe nomination??

natalie portman's performance was terrific as the emotionally ravaged matildha - best actress nomination for sure.

jean reno should have been nominated for a best actor nomination. the fact that the audience is led to feel sympathy and sorrow for a hitman speaks words enough about his performance.

gary oldman is fantastic as the corrupt and psychotic cop. his character is so repulsive and chilling, but at the same time so quirky and interesting to watch. best supporting actor nomination.

luc besson. when this man will get some kudos for his work i never know. the professional, in my opinion, is his greatest achievement as a director and, considering the fact he has helmed classic cult films such as nikita and the fifth element, the professional must rate highly as one of the best films of the 90's atleast! best film and best director nominations should have been given.

but no, it was all too easy to heap praise on the feel good movie forrest gump, and shun the movie that, through its intensity and tragedy, better highlights the value of life and love.
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Excellent, smart action film.
rustysettler4 January 2005
Luc Besson's "The Professional" is sort of a companion piece to his international breakthrough hit "La Femme Nikiti", and in many ways it's an even better film. It raises the stakes of Besson's playful women-with-guns theme by making the heroine a 12-year-old, played by a then unknown Natalie Portman. Jean Reno is excellent as her assassin trainer and surrogate father. Oldman is completely over the top in one of his best bad-guy roles, obsessed with both Beethoven and butchery. As a gritty, suspenseful thriller, this film won't leave action fans feeling cheated, but the film is so much more than that. At the center of "The Professional" is a wonderful father and daughter-like relationship between two damaged strangers who find solace in each other.
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A Brilliant Conflict
Sickfrog14 August 1998
This film, better known in the U.S. as "The Professional", is a wonderful and intense film. Jean Reno plays his role as a "cleaner" with incredible subtlety. Leon tries to keep his emotions completely suppressed, yet Matilda (in an extraordinary performance by a young Natalie Portman, who is destined to become a very powerful actress into her adult life) bring out in him a new-found joy for life that accompanies his growing paternal instincts. But, the most dynamic element of this film is undeniably Gary Oldman's performance as a wildly sadistic and crooked DEA agent with his own narcotic-induced demons. His obsessions eventually lead him to the brink of absolute madness in his hunt for the cleaner. Truly, this is Oldman's finest performance to date, worthy of Oscar glory, though sadly forgotten. And so, Luc Besson did indeed top his triumph of "La Femme Nikita" by far with this masterpiece. Though, I cannot exactly praise his most recent effort with the sci-fi misfire, "The Fifth Element."
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Masterpiece of violent Characterisations and fast action-shooting
psiko5 August 1999
An interview with Anne Parillaud, in the Evening Standard, 24.8.90, it was said that the message of Nikita is not one of violence but the idea is that people who are full of despair and missing love are not alone.

This idea continues in Léon. Léon was Besson's first foray into international film production. The similarities, or parallels, between Nikita and Léon are undoubted. Both the central protagonists attempt to come to terms with their dysfunctionality, to society, against a background of violence, which they both continue to act upon as the agent of someone else. There is no clean difference (we may also include Le Dernier Combat for comparison.) The only difference is gender.

I always found that until obtaining the "Version Integral" there was a character hole in the plot. The original cut released for US audiences was felt, by Besson, had an "offending" scene cut which ruined later scenes. The American test audiences hated it, seeing it as perverse and paedophiliac. The film was still panned by US critics as quasi-child pornography on general release. What it to be understood about this film, and this is what infuriated Besson, is that the film is about pure love. Not sex, which is all the Americans, could see.

And so we have ascertained that the characters in Besson's films are, simply, great. Then there is the action which is all the grace and style of Nikita. Typical of Besson's style with fast action-shooting and violent characterisation. This has to be one of Jean Reno's and by far Natalie Portman's best screen performance. To me, Gary Oldman plays his part to the tee, said by some magazines to be the best screen bad guy - it is one of his best performances.

Stylisation and excess are hallmarks of Besson's work. Characters are larger than life. Décors are in excess of realism. Besson's characters lack psychological depth. "The sumptuous and the ornate cohabit with the violent or the vulgar." Besson's use of excess is also extremely playful mixing violence with humour. Besson's work appeals to the tastes of popular culture and may not please that of the elite - arguably a reason for the rejection of his work by many intellectual film journals.

I have yet to hear of a person putting a bad word against this film. There is nothing I can personally fault so I give this film 10/10, a score only two other somewhat different films hold in my IMDb list of 345 films - "The Wizard of Oz" and "La Cité des Enfants perdu". If you like French Cinema or consider yourself a cinephile you must see the latter.
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greybitsdmg11 November 2009
When I first watched this film at the cinema, I wasn't aware of IMDb. I've since watched it probably 4 or 5 times, and have recently bought the Directors Cut. Having used IMDb a lot recently, I checked out Leon. It was kind of heart warming, having a great deal of my memories of this movie from the previous 15 years being revisited upon me so eloquently whilst reading the comments.

It is a glorious film. One that I've not been able to forget for all the best reasons. I think you could probably choose any sub category art that forms a movie i.e., editing or cinematography, and you'd be hard pushed to find fault.

What makes this film Extra Special however, is the emotional 'ballet' taking place throughout the film.

My emotions were pretty much assaulted by a gang of joy/sadness/hate/fearful anticipation/love/empathy/shock/horror/hope.

It's one of those films.

I adored/respected/loved Leon (I still watch nearly every film with Jean Reno in).

I fell in love with Matilda. I've watched everyone of Natalie Portman's films since too.

I was already a fan of Gary Oldman. This film just added extra glue to that bond. He made a brilliant sociopath, in direct contrast to Leon's (anti-)sociopath.

I occasionally feel for a character (or two if it's a great romance), but it's very rare for me to be drawn into three so very different people's intimate lives so easily.

It's a shame there are too few films of this calibre.
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A Perfect Chemistry
claudio_carvalho7 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
In New York, León (Jean Reno) is an Italian professional hit-man, who loves drinking milk and has a plant as his best friend. His godfather and mentor is the mobster Tony (Danny Aiello), who loves León as if he were his own son, and his cold blood makes him a perfect killer. When Stansfield (Gary Oldman) and his gang executes the family of his twelve years old neighbor Mathilda (Natalie Portman), León lodges the girl in his place, beginning a weird friendship between a killer and a confused girl wishing revenge. When Mathilda finds who Stansfield is, she presses León to kill him.

'León' is a wonderful movie, having one of the most perfect chemistry in the cinema between Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. The storyline recalls some parts of John Cassavetes' 'Gloria', but the performances of the debutant Natalie Portman and the always-excellent Jean Reno upgrade this film. There are at least three scenes that I really love: the light on the corridor, when León opens the door for Mathilda; when they are walking together in a New York street, coming towards the camera; and when Stansfield hits León. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'O Profissional' ('The Professional')
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a symphony in film
Gjay225 April 2003
luc besson will never top this movie. This is his benchmark, his classical composition. Look at the precise, intricate scenes. It's a symphony in cinema. Straight off, it's action. Intelligently shot, and scripted. It makes everything that follows hard to live upto. But it does so easily. It's stylish without being showy, it's deep without being sentimental. And it's just hugely enjoyable. Seeing the friendship between newly orphaned mathilda and skilled assasin leon bloom, is tenderly done. At risk of slipping into a sappy bond, besson keeps it easy on the emotions, without coming off as shallow.

The actors are all spot on, most notably the debut from a young natalie portman as mathilda. Showing an angry, sad, pent up, in love girl is no simple task but she breezes through it, touching all the right notes. And jean reno as the title character, is minimal but very effecting. Hard to understand, but easy to relate too. But gary oldman steals it, with his glorious overacting. He's as scary as he is determind. His line delivery is almost perfect. And his fate is very fitting. If only they made more intelligent action movies, then they could contend with this film. But as it stands right now, leon is one of the best action dramas ever made.
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Awesome movie
jpt-5559425 September 2017
I remember watching this movie when i was young. It was one of those movies that I could watch everyday after school. The action was thrilling and I always wanted to be like Leon, a stone cold bad ass with a heart.

About 20 years after I first saw The Professional I watched it again and it was awesome. It was awesome not because of the nostalgic feeling but because it is a movie that has stood the test of time. Its formula is simple but yet captivating. This is not your typical action movie of a buff guy of a pretty action star that was the norm in the early 90's but the protagonist is someone that is unassuming that epitomises the term "silent killer". Gary Oldman gives a masterclass performance as the main antagonist and Natalie Portman gives a performance that makes one question is she was truly a teenager or if she was older. The plot is intriguing and the pacing keeps you engaged, the stunts are believable and the action sequences will put modern movies to shame. The music is incredible and the characters have depth and humanized.

Without giving out any spoilers this is a film that works in every perceivable way. An A+ for me
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An Unclassifiable Classic
evanatwood16 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is a movie difficult to classify in any genre - which is a big part of what makes it a seemingly timeless classic.

Other reviews have described in detail the essentials of the plot, and the chemistry between the actors, so I will not go over such things in any detail. Rather, I will concentrate on my impressions while watching this movie for the first time - which I did just the other week.

For years, I had been vaguely aware of this film, but I never bothered to check it out. The reason was that I assumed that it was basically a "mob movie" about a hit-man - a genre I'm not particularly interested in. Which, in once sense, it is. However, it is much more than that, as I discovered when I finally got around to seeing it.

When I started watching this movie, at first I found my impressions confirmed, as it opens with an apparently unstoppable mob assassin 'hitting' a group of drug dealing mooks. This opening scene was interesting in that the viewer never sees the killer directly - only in hints. This adds to the sense he's like a shadow or a ghost, an unstoppable force.

However, the viewer soon discovers he's very much a human - and a sad, lonely one at that, living a marginal life in a slum with only his plant for company. At the same time, the viewer is introduced to Mathilda, the young neighbor girl who lives next door - who also lives a sad, lonely and miserable life.

Soon, the unstoppable assassin saves the young girl from the hit squad of drug-dealing cops- and that's when the movie changes ... from a more typical mob shooter into something very like a (very) dark romantic comedy/drama. This I was not expecting. I was sort of expecting that the hit man would protect the girl, who would be more of a non-entity - a "MacGuffin" if you will (a joke they employ in the movie itself - at one point, she registers them in a hotel under the name "MacGuffin").

As a viewer, I watched the unfolding sexual tension between the girl and the killer with uneasiness and dismay. Which appears to have been exactly the point the film-maker was making. The viewer is kept uneasy, not knowing exactly where this relationship is going - just how transgressive it is going to be ... is Mathilda actually "in love" with Leon? Is this "love" returned? Or is Mathilda just manipulating Leon to convince him to help her carry out her revenge? The answer appears to be a bit of "yes" to all the above - though Leon displays no sexual interest in Mathilda, he clearly grows to "love" her (in the sense of wanting what is best for her, even above his own self-interest).

Mathilda, on her part, is certainly not above lying and manipulation in order to get what she wants. While she expresses her love for him repeatedly, to the point of outright propositioning him for sex, it is pretty clear that this sexual aggressiveness is the result of her abusive upbringing and her desire for adulthood - to her, it would seem, "love" means "sexual love" only, as she has never seen any other kind (other than "cuddling" with her baby brother). She both needs Leon (to carry out her revenge) and "loves" Leon (the only adult who has ever been kind to her). In that context, her declarations are both an attempt to bind Leon to her, a sort of manipulation, and the only expression of an "adult" type love she can understand.

The point is that this is a surprisingly deep and sensitive exploration of a relationship, and nothing like what one would expect from a typical action movie. For me at least, this raises the movie to the level of a classic.
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One of those movies that remain stuck to mind
amoghhlgr1 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film on DVD that I borrowed from my friend, who recommended it after I asked him for some refreshing thriller, but I ended up getting something more than that. It's just brilliant in every aspect - from casting to call, and from beginning to end, without a little distraction in between. Luc Besson has done a good job, and Gary Oldman! My god! Why didn't he win an Oscar for this role? Jean Reno did a terrific acting and so did the young Natalie.

What starts off as an introduction to the 'cleaner' takes a whole new direction as the girl meets our Hit-man. Then comes Norman, the bad-ass cop, for a drug related issue with the girl's father. A murderous scene that sets in so naturally that I felt I was in that room. The girl is fortunately safe and credit goes to her mother who sent her to the grocery and Leon who allows her inside after she seeks help witnessing the aftermath.

Later on I thought the story between Leon and Mathalda would go somewhat like Terminator-Judgement Day. But there was something even more special. Leon is losing his murderous instinct bit by bit as he grows into a 'Caretaker' and Mathalda loses her craze for killing and adulthood again a bit by bit. The way the climax has been written and presented, boy! 200 cops on one man, and still they struggle to take him out until he finally sacrifices his life to save the pretty girl. Every thing in the middle, that I've left out is something that I can only feel from the experience of watching this movie. Natalie Portman is now a huge star, and she deserves her stardom and acclaim after having acted like this in her very first film, and remember its no small film.

It's a type of movie that I get to watch on rare occasions. Something that remains stuck in my mind after days of watching!
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A thrilling crime film, in deep touch and care with the characters- Besson and Portman's best work to date
MisterWhiplash20 March 2005
I sensed that Luc Besson (director of The Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita) was, like Tarantino and many, many others before him, borrowed elements from various films and genres to create their own voice in the film. With Leon, I sensed him alluding to the crime films of France (i.e. Melville), Hong-Kong (i.e. Woo), and America (i.e. Scorsese), and making it into his own special brand for the story and characters. That his style visually is as compelling helps a great deal. The international version (which is the one I saw) is a little grittier, and more suggestive, than the version most American audiences saw in 1994 and on cable. But it is also a must-see if you are planning to see the film. It's not a long movie, though it gives a good many details in its story.

Jean Reno has his star-making turn (at least for what he's worth) in Leon- he's ruthless contract killer who will kill just about anyone for the right price. He lives out of an apartment by himself, trying his best to ignore his noisy neighbors. One of the daughters is Mathilda (Natalie Portman, also a major breakthrough performance), abused by her whole family to no end. When a corrupt cop (Gary Oldman, one of the key villain performances of his career along with Dracula and Drexl in True Romance) goes and kills off her family while she's away, she has no one else to turn to besides the reclusive killer. She knows what he does, and she wants in. The rest of the film is about their relationship, as it unfolds professionally and emotionally, leading to a tremendous, bloody climax.

One thing that struck me most about Leon is the fact that the film was more disturbing than I expected. The idea of a killer getting a pupil in a young teenage girl is unusual enough, but the way it unfolds I felt so much for her plight got to me at times. this doesn't make Leon a tear-jerker (maybe for some, I'm not sure), but because of Portman's dead-on portrayal, it makes the story work somehow, and is in a way as fantastical as it is naturalistic. There are also a few scenes that stuck out as being little masterpieces of all the elements coming together. The first is a brief scene, and crucial to showing the character of Leon early on- he takes a break after his contract, and sees a movie, a musical with Gene Kelly. He's the only one in the theater, and he is completely in the grasp of what he sees on the screen. It's the perfect touch of humanity and shows his only escape is into complete fantasy.

The second is when Leon and Mathilda are in a restaurant, after she has just gone through a day of training (there's a hilarious montage that follows this scene). Mathilda is getting drunk off of champagne, rambling with words she may or may not mean. Suddenly, she starts laughing, and she laughs more, and harder. People in the restaurant look at her like she's nuts. Leon is, of course, embarrassed. However, I thought this was just the right touch to this scene, where the kind of father-daughter relationship going on between Leon and Mathilda is revealed. It's not exactly funny, not even really cringe worthy. It just is. The third scene is when Mathilda decides to pay a visit to the man who murdered her family. She follows the man into the bathroom, and waits. Suddenly, he (Oldman) appears out from behind a door. The language used, the tenseness of the two off of one another, it's simply the most terrifying scene in the picture (aside from the first violent turning point).

So, basically, when Leon finished, I think I realized that my reaction was this: if I had seen this film when I was younger, be it in high school or even middle school, I would've responded to it even more strongly than I do now. There's something very visceral about the nature of violence and killing, as well as the mentor/pupil relationship, that Besson really gets down pat. While some of the situations have the chance of slipping into clichés, it doesn't happen very often. Leon: The Professional, is hard-hitting when it has to be, soft and funny when it can, and does stay with the viewer a few days after it's over.
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"I like these calm little moments before the storm..."
ConkerBFD9118 February 2008
Many movies have characters in them who are hired assassins, or "hit men". They're the standard "badass" character that kills people in order to collect a reward. Most hit men in films have been portrayed as cold, heartless villains (Boba Fett of Star Wars, Vincent of Collateral). Léon, however, flips this cliché on its end, as the hit-man is the kind-hearted protagonist who learns how to love, thanks to a little girl who shows up on his doorstep.

Léon begins in a restaurant, with the assassin himself (Jean Reno) taking a contract from his boss Tony (Danny Aiello) to kill a man who's moving in on Tony's territory. The next 10 minutes become an enthralling cat and mouse game where Leon shows the viewers just why he is known as the cleaner: he is extremely good at this job. We also see Leon's human side, shown by his passion for milk, his affection for his plant (whom he calls his best friend) and when he becomes engrossed watching Singin' in the Rain. Leon seems quite content with this life, not seeming to want anything more. That is, until he is forced to take custody of a twelve-year-old girl (Natalie Portman) whose entire family was cruelly massacred by a corrupt DEA agent (Gary Oldman). This is where Leon is forced to change his lifestyle for the little girl, and when she wishes to get into contract killing to avenge her brother, Leon becomes her mentor and protector.

Luc Besson was both the director and screenwriter for Léon, and he proves with his sophomore effort that he is no one-hit wonder. Léon is a very fast paced movie, chronicling Leon's training of Mathilda, Mathilda's growing affection for contract killing (and for Leon himself), and the final standoff with Norman Stansfield. Despite all this, Léon also has time to throw in some slower scenes that develop Leon's and Mathilda's characters, expanding on their growing relationship and partnership.

Jean Reno does a very good job as Leon, portraying him both as an effective and frightening killing machine, and as a loving and caring father figure. There is almost a childlike innocence to Leon, with him being unable to read and not familiar with most American culture. Reno allows the audience to both sympathize with this character and respect him, an extremely challenging feat.

Natalie Portman's breakout role as Mathilda is one of the greatest acted child roles in a film, period. Portman is able to portray childlike innocence combined with an above average intelligence and awareness of the world around her. Although she is young, she becomes extremely interested in Leon and his job, wanting revenge for the gross acts committed upon her. Make no mistake, Mathilda is the true star of this film, and Portman completely shines in the role.

In comparison to Jean Reno's fairly subdued performance as Leon, apparently Luc Besson wanted a more exciting and over-the-top antagonist for the film: enter Gary Oldman. Gary Oldman completely overacts his character of the crooked DEA cop, and he does it so wonderfully that he steals every scene he is in. This is without a doubt the greatest performance of this underrated actor's career, as the fun Oldman has with this role practically oozes out of the screen and infects anyone who watches him. While some critics criticized Oldman for his performance, it was actually spot on considering that the character of Stansfield is a drug-addicted psychotic cop who has no problem with murdering an innocent family to get what he desires. The only nitpick I have with Stansfield is his screen time is fairly small compared with Leon and Mathilda; nevertheless he completely steals the show when he does appear.

The plot of Léon is fairly straightforward compared to most action flicks, as there are no particular plot twists or double crossings. However, the simple plot works because this is not a plot driven movie, it is a character driven one. That's not to say there is no action in this movie, there are a few great action sequences (especially the spectacular police shootout in the film's climax), but the film mainly revolves around the growing affection between Leon and Mathilda, and how they change each others' lives. Overall, Léon is an extremely well-made action/drama, and one of the best films of 1994.
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NpMoviez11 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It is one of the most overrated movies of all times. I don't mean it's bad, but it's not as great as people claim it to be. It is a good and a little different type of crime drama. But, speaking of 90s crime dramas and mob films, "Goodfellas", "Pulp Fiction", "The Usual Suspects", "Se7en", "Reservoir Dogs", etc are much better than this movie, at least for me. But still a lot better majority of crime movies today. The main theme - the relationship between Leon and Mathilda - mostly satisfying and very well written and directed. That is something I really loved. But at the same time, a part of that relationship is quite a mixed bag for me. (SPOILERS) Mathilda falls in love with Leon and asks him for intimacy. As much as I admire Besson's decision, it feels unusually weird. Plus, Natalie Portman was just around 12 or 13 years old, and there were some perverted shots of her in the movie that I didn't really want to see. The Leon-Mathilda plotline, except for this part, was quite good. And which means almost more than a half of the movie was good. Mathilda becoming a hitman plotline - the motivation felt a little forced to me, her training sessions were finely entertaining but ..... where and how did it really end? More than becoming a real hitman (probably she did in the montage sequence) we only get to see her do some crazy teenager stuffs. And, one of my biggest issues - Mathilda wanting a revenge on Stan plotline. It would have been a better movie if this one and the first plotline I mentioned were equally a major part of the movie. But, the movie deviates from this a lot. We get reminded about this part when Gary Oldman shows up. This was one of the main parts of the plot, but didn't really feel like one. Also, Stan is a simple crazy psycho-ish villain with nothing much of depth to him. The first plotline worked for me in the way it did, mostly because of the amazing performances of Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. They were very great. Leon was written very carefully. And ........ Gary Oldman ......... I love the man as an actor, he is amazing in most of the his movies I have watched. May be his performances in "Darkest Hour" and as Commissioner Gordon in Dark Knight Trilogy are my favorite Gary Oldman performances. I haven't seen all of his movies, but this is by far the worst Gary Oldman performance I have ever seen. A part of it is to be blamed on Besson, but nothing can be taken away from Oldman. He simply hams up the performance. On the whole, it's a very enjoyable movie and has it's goods and has it's flaws. Not bad at all. It's good. But it feels like hypocrisy to have this movie as the 30th highest rated movie on IMDb.

Score : 6.7/10

Grade : B+

Label : Decently entertaining for one or occasional views
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"I take no pleasure in taking life..."
robelanator24 February 2005
"...if it's from a person who doesn't care about it."

What really stands out for me (aside from the really excellent direction of the action sequences) is the too-brilliant for its own good script. Oldman,Reno, and Portman deliver lines that would seem goofy if spoken by lesser performers. Oldman especially chews the scenery in a way that's both amusing and utterly menacing. I wonder if his Beethoven obsession is a nod to the ultra-violent Alex from A Clockwork Orange?

The American version ("The Professional") was the first version I saw. I'd originally had no real intention of seeing it because I'd read a pretty savage review of it likening it to child pornography. Clearly this particular reviewer had his head firmly planted in his rear. I'm surprised he could find room what with that tremendous stick in the way. Anyway, once I finally saw "Leon" for myself - thanks to my cinemaphile grandfather - I observed no such thing. This wasn't smut, it was love. Leon has no interest in Matilda sexually, but loves her as a father would love a daughter.

If you have a choice then go for the longer director's cut. You get about 15 minutes more film - and not just filler. These are scenes that truly expand upon the story.

My only complaints are about the almost complete under use of the completely underrated Danny Aiello, and Oldman's single dimensional evilness.
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What does "per se" mean?
Truly, I am not at all the kind of person who would advocate the French' self-concept. Anyway I must admit the Marseillaise is the one and only anthem that deserves being called 'anthem'. The Marseillaise is the anthem per se. And Léon is the movie per se. How else could a virile man happen to start crying watching an action movie? How else could a sophisticated man fall in love with a child? Or a tantalized pacifist's soul feel itself falling into murderous frenzy? With the means of his cinematic language Luc Besson sneaks under our skin, ignoring any mental or emotional barriers. During the movie our eyes our not the window to peek at our soul but the gateway to enter it. Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and the Dieffenbachia realize the story so frankly and straightforward that the brilliance of the story completely blends into the authenticity of the impression. I face a work and do not dare speak a word about it. It is. Léon is the Movie.
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Favorite Movie of all-time (here is why)
alwayslikethis23 December 2002
I saw this movie in the theatre in 1994 and I really like it then, but at the time I wouldnt be able to tell you why. The next time I saw the movie was at home on TIVO, in December 2001 and I fell in love with the film all over again.

Firstly, the theme of the movie - Isolation and Redemption - The characters Leon and Mathilda had no one who loved them in this world and were very much alone (mathilda did have her 4 year old brother but that was all she had)The characters were dealing with a similar lonlieness even thought heir worlds were very different.

Secondly, the scripting in the film really hit me. When a bloodied, beaten Mathilda turns to Leon after meeting him only once or twice, she says to him "Is life always this hard or just when your a kid?" Leon pauses and his response to her was not what anyone would expect. The whole movie is well scripted and blows me away.

Thirdly, The cinematography is top notch. When Mathilda arrives at Leons door and she pleads to enter and when the door opens bathing her in light is simply breathtaking. The close-ups on the characters and the way the camera is held over their shoulder as they talk with each other really gives it a personal feel to allow you to empathise with the characters. I could go on about the cinematography more but I have more.

Fourth, the music by Eric Serra. I really enjoyed the music more and more with each viewing as I came to realize that the soundtrack was orchestrated specifically after each scene was filmed and then the music was designed to match what was happening on screen. Sometimes, I watch the movie and just pay close attention to the details in the music. It creates a whole new perspective.

Fifth, the acting and the casting. Jean Reno plays Leon so perfectly. You really can sense what the character is about. The soft spoken hitman who is like a child in many ways but extremely skilled at his job. Natalie Portman plays the street wise Mathilda who has to pull off one hell of a performance. Many say it is her best role and I agree. Much of the acting by both of these characters is done with simple facial expression. The dialogue between these two leaves you wanting to see more. Danny Aiello as Tony. Gotta love Tony. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Its open to debate and thats the way it is intended. Gary Oldman as Stansfield - The bad cop - what can you say? he plays the role over the top and is perfect and nuts.

Sixth, Luc Besson, director, writer and visionary who saw the potential of this film and went for it. How could anyone expect a movie that has a hitman who protects a twelve year old girl who falls in love with him and wants to be trained as an assassin to be a great film? Luc and Co. realized the dre am and brought the right people on board to make this very special film. I am amazed that it even came to be. He rested 50% of the acting chores on a 12 yr. old girl with no acting lessons or experience - his film depended on her and he was a little worried, no doubt. But he showed her what he needed from her and she gave everything she had... and it shows.

All I can say is this movie is like a song that I never grow tired off. I know there are others who fell the same way. Feel free to email me and join the Leon fan club on yahoo. 10 out of 10, of course.
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Leon is #47 and my #1
mattylb38-19 November 2005
On IMDb's list of top 250 movies Leon is currently number 47, and my number one. There may be movies produced with a bigger budget, more special effects, and 'big named' actors (read overpriced scientologists) but Luc Besson created his muse and my passion with this movie. This is by far my most favorite movie of all time. In the past I would simply rattle off movies 'in my top 10' because I couldn't pick favorites. Leon has finally broken my cowardice and made me choose. It just works for me. Natalie Portman is amazing. I have honestly fallen for her over and over again since I first saw this movie. Jean Reno and her fulfilled their roles so well. I loved the way their connection was so unconventional but pure. Love is love. It doesn't apologize, it doesn't follow a mold and it doesn't have to. Damn, I think I'm going to go watch it again right now.
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This is the best movie ever!
ilo-boki9 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Just keeping it simple this my favorite movie of all time.

It is a real masterpiece of art and nothing else.

From the first second to the last second it is breath taking.

For me is this movie the real #1 of the top 250!

I watched it let's say more than 1000 times and I'm still hoping that Léon can get through the door and reach the bright sun light.

The acting is with one word superb and the genius soundtrack is just killing it.

Léon is the best movie character I have ever seen, and I'm quite sure that there will be no one who can top him

This is straight 10/10 and nothing else.
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Manolo, one glass of milk for my friend, Léon. .. OK, Make that Two.
gigabyte892 December 2008
This movie is a piece of Art. Truly unique in its genre. It successfully blends action, drama, thriller (...you name it) together. It’s masterfully directed by Luc Besson which proves that you don’t need a big budget to make a really good movie. The shooting is awesome- Camera angles, close to face camera focus, scenes such as Mathilda’s face illuminating as the door opens and the white flash at the end is simply awesome! The Musical score and soundtrack such as Sting and Björk is again... Very well chosen and fits the movie completely! The movie contains some unforgettable dialogues & scenes too. The scene where there is a burst of laughter in the Restaurant or the toilet scene with Gary Oldman is just a treat to watch that guy act! From its explosive start to its brilliant ending, no any segments gets boring at any time, everything is relevant and you just want more!

The acting by the magical Trio Jean Reno-Nathalie Portman-Gary Oldman just smokes! ‘Nuff said. Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in a movie. You could read everything just on their facial expressions and looks real. It’s really amazing…

About the controversial pedophile issue I think you guys are pushing this a little too far. The Bed scenes etc, it is not sex but platonic love as Besson said! It’s that “love in the air” that makes the movie even more gripping.

Timeless classic and among just the handful of movies you could watch indefinitely… No questions. I’m always happy. This is a straight 10. This is my favorite movie.
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