It is a mystery to me why "The Professional" is rated so high here on the IMDb...#62 as I write this. To be sure, there is much to admire here. But for everything director Luc Besson gets right with this movie he seems to get something else quite terribly wrong.
Let's start with the positive: Natalie Portman as Mathilda is a revelation here. Young, beautiful and very, very talented, it should come as no surprise after watching this movie why George Lucas wanted her to play a major role in his second "Star Wars" trilogy. And Jean Reno as Leon is her perfect counterpart. Reno underplays his role beautifully and the two stars develop a true screen chemistry.
Oh, but now the negatives. Gary Oldman, normally a wonderful villain, is way, way over the top as the DEA agent Stanfield. He "chews up the scenery" to quote other reviewers I have read. (That's not a compliment.) And Oldman's lunatic rantings lead me to the main problem I have with the movie: Plot holes.
In order to fully believe the events of this movie you must accept that Stanfield is at least somewhat capable of behaving in a normal manner in society. After all, he holds an important position in the DEA. And he must have a supervisor or two, doesn't he? Could the raving lunatic we see here really function in that role without raising a dozen red flags? I don't think so.
Of course, Stanfield has a merry band of followers. Dozens, it seems. One has to wonder if every cop in the city is as corrupt as he is. How in the world do they burst into someone's apartment, kill his wife (in the bathtub!) as well as his teenage daughter and four year old son...again all without raising any red flags?
And speaking of that pivotal scene, it is also hard for me to accept that Mathilda's father, knowing what is coming, would not have had his entire family out of that apartment by Noon.
The biggest plot hole, however, is the relationship between Mathilda and Leon. As well acted as it is, the lone wolf hit-man deciding to "adopt" a 12 year old girl just does not ring true. It is far too clearly a mere plot device.
While watching this movie I was often reminded of the film "Taxi Driver" which deals with many of the same themes. "Taxi Driver" is a movie that deserves a high ranking in the IMDB top 250. "The Professional" does not.
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