I don't usually like to watch movies about hit men or cops and robbers. I remember I got interested in this movie because of two things: Luc Besson's movie the Fifth Element, which was so wildly different and fascinating that I wanted to see what else this French director had done; and secondly, seeing Natalie Portman for the first time in the Star Wars: Phantom Menace movie.
Behind all of the dense make up and bad script and horribly non-existent directing from George Lucas in Phantom Menace, I sensed in Natalie Portman one heck of a terrific young actress struggling to come up with a meaningful performance. In "Leon - The Professional", working with a superb director, her acting talent is on full display.
When one thinks of modern day child actors, Anna Paquin comes to mind, in "The Piano", because she aced out some terrific adult actresses in 1993 to win the Oscar. Well, Natalie Portman, at age 12, had Anna Paquin beat by a mile in this movie, since her character takes up about half of the movie. If not for the truly unusual and off-beat story line of this movie, Portman would have gotten a lot more attention for her role in this movie, I think.
If you just focus on Portman's facial expressions and the way she carries herself in this movie, she goes through an amazing acting range in this movie, from hurt, terrified, bored, stuck up, cool and calculating, manipulative, sweet, child-like, and pubescent sexual allure.
As mentioned by other reviewers, the uncut version restores scenes that basically give a harder edge to Natalie Portman's character. The additional scenes of her assassin training with Leon and her efforts to attract and get closer to Leon definitely put her character in a harsher light. I remember from my first viewing of the cut U.S.