15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2004
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. version that Mathilda came across as a much more sweet and innocent child. The uncut version shows her more to be a hardened child of the mean streets of New York. Given the usual Hollywood propensities, it's not that surprising that these scenes got cut for the U.S. release. The uncut version does show the fullest acting range of Natalie Portman, even if they make her character less sympathetic.
Basically, the movie skates close to, but avoids the pedophilia controversies of the "Lolita" movies by having the character of Leon adhere to a strict code of ethics that firmly blocks all of Mathilda's advances. Even at the end, when he kisses her good-by and says that he loves her, it is clearly in the vein of being her protector and a big brother/father surrogate figure.
All in all, this was a great movie. Jean Reno was just so hauntingly sad as the loner-assassin Leon. Gary Oldman was definitely over the top in his portrayal of the crazed DEA agent - you almost expected his Dracula fangs to come out and his eyes to glow red when he popped those pills into his mouth.
So all of you Natalie Portman fans, this movie is a definite must-see. All of you Phantom Menace/Attack of the Clones haters who think that Natalie Portman can't act, you've got to see this movie to understand that no, Natalie Portman is a terrific actress. It's just really, really tough to play opposite total stiffs like Hayden Christiansen and Jake Lloyd, working with an idiot director like George Lucas.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2004
There's hardly anything I can say that will do justice to the splendor of 'Leon - The Professional'. The insanity of both the action sequences and Gary Oldman's performance... the touching love story of 2 lonely outcasts... the fantastic cinematography... the heart-breaking tragedy... the pulsing score... the violent life of a shy, milk-drinking, plant-loving hitman... the soul of an innocent little girl... the blistering, chaotic, blood-drenched fury that lives in all 3 of these characters...
...It's just a vortex of beautiful destruction. All these things crammed into one amazing film. A remarkable cast giving remarkable performances, and a very visual director shoving this seething powerhouse of a film right in our faces...
Like I said, there's nothing I can say. So, just believe me when I tell you that this is a very great film.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2008
This is literature on celluloid. The music is top notch too. I recommend only the so-called "International" (deluxe) version, or as Besson calls it, the "long" version. Far too much character development was removed from the American release, making that version just another action flick.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Léon: The Professional  [20th Anniversary Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] NO WOMEN! NO KIDS! THAT’S THE RULE!
The first English language thriller ‘LEON’ from Luc Besson, the director of 'Nikita'. Gary Oldman plays Norman Stansfield, a psychotic government official whose actions provide the catalyst for murder on the New York streets. When a young girl named Mathilda [Natalie Portman] witnesses her family being gunned down by Gary Oldman's team of corrupt cops, she teams up with lone hit man Leon [Jean Reno] to take revenge. Natalie Portman made her film debut with this film.
FILM FACT: Léon: The Professional was nominated for 7 César Awards in 1995, and Norman Stansfield has since been named by several publications as one of cinema's greatest villains.
Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Michael Badalucco, Ellen Greene, Peter Appel, Willi One Blood, Don Creech, Adam Busch, Samy Naceri, Keith A. Glascoe, Randolph Scott, George Martin, Elizabeth Regen, Carl J. Matusovich, Frank Senger, Lucius Wyatt and Maïwenn
Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Patrice Ledoux
Screenwriter: Luc Besson
Composer: Éric Serra
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 106 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review – French auteur Luc Besson may have gained international acclaim for 'La Femme Nikita,' cleaned house at the box office with his sci-fi smash 'The Fifth Element,' and had a hand in making Jason Statham into an action leading man with 'The Transporter,' but for me his pièce de résistance will always be 'Léon: The Professional.' Brutal, beautiful, and controversial, the film isn't just Luc Besson at his best – it's cinema at its finest.
In New York City's underworld, Léon [Jean Reno] is a "cleaner," a professional hit-man for a mobster named Tony [Danny Aiello]. Léon is the best assassin in the city, and routine, order, and simplicity have moulded his way of living. Of course, being an efficient killing machine does come with one major drawback – he's not much of a "people person." Aside from Tony and his short-lived clients, Léon is someone who has very little human contact. When his best friend is his houseplant, it goes without saying that social skills just aren't his forte.
Léon's simplistic lifestyle unexpectedly takes a complicated turn when a drug deal in the next door apartment goes sour. After the family is massacred by a psychotic lunatic (played by a devilish Gary Oldman), the only one left is twelve-year-old Mathilda [Natalie Portman]. In a moment of kindness, Léon offers sanctuary to the young girl, and unwittingly invites in a whole heap of trouble in the process. Not only does Mathilda uncover what Léon really does for a living, she wants to become his student so she can have her revenge. As Mathilda's pain and persistence begins to wear down Léon's defences, it isn't long before she's welcomed under his wing and into his heart.
Although 'Léon: The Professional' does share a few similarities with 'Nikita' ('Léon' was even inspired by Reno's "cleaner" character in that film), Luc Besson crafts a tale that is entirely in a class by itself. The cinematography is simply brilliant, as the violent opening sequence locks in the electrifying tone for the picture. From then on, every action-packed hit is dripping with intensity, and the quieter moments in between are dreamlike and surreal. Virtually every scene is staged with such elegance and grace that it's hard to not be completely transfixed by this film.
Luc Besson doesn't just captivate his audiences with soothing visuals; he also stirs the pot to make them restless in their seats. The backbone of the plot already pushes the morality envelope, as a pre-teen is being trained to kill in cold blood. But Luc Besson goes one step further, placing the relationship between Léon and Mathilda in an area completely clouded in grey – essentially creating one of the most unconventional love stories ever told. There are times where their screen time together is delightfully charming, and other instances where it starts going down a more disturbing path. While this may have crossed the line for some viewers, the intent was to create tension and ruffle a few feathers, and in that regard Luc Besson hits a home run.
There is also a great deal of depth provided by its three unforgettable performances. Reno really is at the top of his game here, juggling the two very distinct personalities of his character with dexterous precision. In "serious" mode Léon is experienced and confident, but when he's outside of his comfort zone he morphs into a shy and timid creature. Then there's Gary Oldman as the nut job villain Norman Stansfield. While he doesn't totally steal the show (which is good since this is supposed to be Léon and Mathilda's story anyways), he fully embraces his despicable role, and his portrayal is so unnerving that the rattled expressions on the actors playing his own goon squad just had to be genuine. Last and certainly not least is Natalie Portman, who gives such an endearing performance in her feature film debut that it's utterly mind-blowing.
If you haven't already guessed it, 'Léon: The Professional' is one of my all-time favourite films and the reason for this is because it is a very intelligent character driven genre type thriller and full of well-choreographed action, done in a very thoughtful intelligent way. Between Luc Besson's unique vision and the impeccable performances of the cast, this is a powerful film where style meets substance in perfect harmony.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The high-definition transfer has been struck from the same master Optimum Home Entertainment/StudioCanal accessed in 2009 for their standard Blu-ray release of Léon: The Professional. Unsurprisingly, its basic characteristics are identical to those of the high-definition transfer from the standard Blu-ray release. Generally speaking, most close-ups look pleasing, while the panoramic shots boast good clarity. Traces of light contrast boosting and sharpening, however, are easy to spot throughout the entire film. During close-ups it is also easy to see that some of the fine grain is mixed with light noise. Still, the film still has a pleasing organic look. Colour reproduction is satisfactory, but it is obvious that saturation can be better. Image stability is good. Lastly, a few tiny flecks still pop up here and there. All in all, this is a good presentation of Leon, but it would have been nice to see a brand new transfer for the film's 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 LPCM Stereo. For the record, StudioCanal have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it. The 5.1 track is very good. It has an excellent range of nuanced dynamics and clarity is outstanding. The elaborate action sequences sound particularity good, but Eric Serra's score also makes an impression. The dialogue is very crisp, free of background hiss, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there are no pop ups, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
There is a disappointingly meagre selection of supplements on this release. Sure, we get both the theatrical and director’s cut, but apart from that, only brief interviews with Jean Reno and composer Eric Serra are included.
Interview with Jean Reno [06:45] In this new video interview, actor Jean Reno recalls his work with young Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman (the two became big friends after the film was completed), and discusses the style and tone of the film. In English, not subtitled
Interview with Eric Serra [09:40] In this new video interview, acclaimed composer Eric Serra recalls his first encounter with Luc Besson and how the soundtrack for Leon came to exist. Mr. Serra also discusses the specific music themes that were used during key sequences. In English, not subtitled
Finally, move over Beethoven and Mozart, French filmmaker Luc Besson has conducted his own symphonic masterpiece with 'Léon: The Professional.' Between its slick writing, melodic direction, and trio of scene-searing performances, it's the type of film that just seems to hit all of the right notes. Although this 20th Anniversary Limited Edition SteelBook Blu-ray is a bit lacking in extra features, fans can now enjoy either version of the film via seamless branching. Add in excellent video and one of the best audio presentations for a catalogue title to date, and this Blu-ray disc is well worth owning. What is also very exquisite about this particular Blu-ray SteelBook is the stunning design inside and out and has now gone proud of place in my ever expanding SteelBook Blu-ray Collection, as this is now my ultimate version. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on May 16, 2004
French director Luc Besson ("The Messenger"; "The Fifth Element") made his U.S. film debut with this intelligent thriller of an Italian hitman who is untouchable. "Leon" stars Jean Reno ("The Big Blue") plays Leon, a professional hitman with ninja-like skills, who eliminates rivals for a mob boss (Danny Aiello).
After a corrupt cop (Gary Oldman) eliminates the family residing next door due to a drug transaction gone wrong, Leon finds himself the guardian of young Mathilda (Natalie Portman in her screen debut). Taking Mathilda under his helm, Leon teaches her the art of the "cleaner". However, danger lurks around every corner, and Leon must protect Mathilda from the same cops who killed her family.
Considered by many to be his masterpiece, "Leon" was originally released in the United States under the title "The Professional". However due to the feeling that American audiences might find some material unacceptable, over 24 minutes of the film was edited out. Finally, Columbia/Tri-Star has made an excellent decision in releasing the uncut, international version of this excellent film in the U.S.
While the film's central theme revolves around Leon and his job, the subplot where Mathilda develops an attraction for Leon is reminiscent of the novel/film "Lolita". The chemistry between both characters in a father/daughter relationship can be intense, especially as we notice that Mathilda is in her puberty-stage.
Jean Reno is excellent as always, and Gary Oldman gives a chilling performance as Stansfield, the wicked DEA officer who murdered Mathilda's family in cold blood. However, the real scene-stealer in this film has to be Natalie Portman. This beautiful young girl radiates beauty and professionalism throughout the film. Her porcelain-looking skin, and her big brown eyes are well utilized in this film, making her character more childish, yet mature to a certain extent. Portman proved to audiences in this film that she was no flash in the pan, and in her subsequent films, she continues to be a scene-stealer. She is truly Hollywood's most gifted young actress.
In this version, most of the 24 minutes that were left out in the film's 1994 release in the U.S. mainly involves both Leon and Mathilda going on "cleaning sweeps" where she gets first hand training in the art of assassination. The other half of these minutes focuses on Mathilda's attraction to Leon. Her persistent attempts to be intimate with Leon all fail, but we finally understand why Leon remains a loner when it comes to affairs if the heart. Some might be uncomfortable about the idea of Mathilda and Leon sharing a bed together, but Besson paints this scene as one involving platonic love and not sex.
In wrapping up, I recommend this film for anyone who enjoys a nonstop, high-impact thriller in the same tradition as the "Matrix," "Blade," or "Dead Calm". Luc Besson truly is one of the world's greatest action directors, and "Leon" captures his magic. An excellent, pulstaing film from beginning to end!
on April 5, 2004
This is a movie that would be hard to like if it were explained to you in a literal sense. A movie about a 40 something Italian hitman that falls in love with a 12 year old girl. But it is much more than the parts that make it a movie.
First off the bat it ignores a lot of stereotypes that existed at that time about hitmen, especially Italian ones that worked for a face that is played up to be part of La Cost Nostra, even it if isn't said outright. He doesnt' wear Armani Suits, eat spaghetti, sleep with high class floozies, or hang out at bars bragging about who he has done in all while drinking shots and snorting coke. No, he is a quiet introvert, that does his job, and meticulously focuses on his quiet and simple life. He is illiterate, has only one real friend, cares for his plant like it was a pet, and loves going out to musicals. Which, the latter is a great scene, seeing a hardened killer smiling like he was a 10 year old boy while watching muscials at a nearly empty theater was classic. Plus the more you get to know of his character the more you realize he is stunted emotionally, flawless killer, but unable to handle simple social interaction.
Natalie Portman shows her talent in her first role as the rebellious daughter of a drug handler. She shows not only her potential for being a great actress, but intelligence in this role. Where she falls in love with a hitman and is dead set on avenging the death of her little brother, the one person in her dysfunctional family she cares for.
Gary Oldman is in his classic evil form as a drug addicted DEA agent that has crossed the line. True, he does overdo the character, but that is what makes it fun. Watching him pop some green pill, chatter about Bethoven, then procede to break into an apartment killing everyone in it was one of the best parts of the film.
The camera angles and the characters in this movie are fresh and gritty. Not falling to sterotypes, they make you feel like you are really in New York, sweating along with the cop in a bad suit and five o'clock shadow.
The love story is bizarre, but works in the end. Two misfits, that find each other and help pull themselves out of their downward spiraling lives.
This is a powerful movie that I think everyone should experience. It hits on many levels and appeals to many different types of people, people who like to view films as artwork to those who just like an action flick, this movie will deliver. Though I was tempted to take away a star since I didn't like the additions of the directors cut, the power still holds. See the theatrical release first, then watch the directors cut. Afterwards you can pick your favorite and watch them over and over again.
on January 17, 2004
This movie is electric. I would give the movie a higher rating if I could. Jean Reno plays a cleaner named Leon who is a very top notch killer. The ways he takes people out or finds ways to get to them are amazing. Natalie Portman is also in this movie and she plays her role great too. She is a 12 year old girl who's life is bad and her parents are killed by DEA Agents. Leon takes her under his wing and she fills the emptiness in his life while he trains her to be a cleaner. The plot summary I gave doesn't do it justice, its much more indepth than what I said. This movie is filled with explosive action, drama, and suspense. Once you see this movie you will want to see it a hundred times over. Leon is one of my favorite movies and I'm telling you it really blows away alot of other "action" movies. There is a reason why this movie is an international hit, so stop reading this review and just buy the movie. Make sure you buy the international edition. It is longer and it shows more of the relationship between Leon and Mathilda.
on January 6, 2004
The story revolves around a young girl named Matilda ( Natalie Portman). She lives in an extremely disfunctional family, and her dad has ties with local drug boss Mr. Stansfield (played wonderfully by Gary Oldman). Stansfield and his crew show up and wipe out Matilda's entire family, which leaves her as the sole survivor. She manages to escape and goes to her next door neighbor Leon( Jean Reno)for help. At first, she just needs someone to look after her and a place to stay. But Matilda soon discovers that Leon is a professional hitman. The lifestyle soon appeals to Matilda, and she convinces Leon to teach her how to be a hitman, so that she can gain revenge on the men that killed her family...
Luc Besson's "Leon" is one of the best movies available right now. The action sequences in this movie will blow your mind! They are intense and do not pull any punches. The story is absolutely oustanding. It is dramatic, funny, and so fast paced that you might get dizzy from watching it. The cast is great. This is Natalie Portman's first role, and she does an outstanding job. Also Gary Oldman plays one of the best villans that you can hope for. He is intelligent, cruel, sadistic, and just straight out of his mind. Danny Aiello does a nice job as the local mob boss that sets up Leon with his jobs and takes care of his finances. Last, but certainly not least there is Jean Reno as Leon the hitman. He is cold, calculated, and never misses the mark. Although Leon is a trained killer, you can't help but like the guy because he raises Matilda like she was his own daughter. Leon actually takes pride in teaching her how to be a hitman.
"Leon" is flat out amazing and one of my all time favorite films. The performances, thrilling action sequences, and touching father/daughter relationship between Leon and Matilda will keep your heart pumping, and have you reaching for the kleenex as well.
*WARNING - Make sure that you purchase THIS version of the film. The movie released in the U.S. called "The Professional" is missing a substantial amount of footage. "Leon" has over 30 minutes of extra footage that lets you see the film uncut and in its entirety. It is deffinately worth the extra money!
on December 24, 2003
Movies are the literature of the Post-Modern Age, and you don't get much more verbose than this.
Lets Skip The Obvious:
1. Action Film
2. Lolita - Wannabe
3. Procedural Drama
Now - This film, like "The Matrix" is not a hodge-podge, but a pollack-like master-blend, and it is more than the sum of its parts. Lets hit just some of the highlights:
1. Generation Gap: Leon represents the walled-up baby-boomers, struggling to shake the shell of the Industrial Age. He has tools, but is a slave to them, he has money, but no investments, he has heart, but no love.
1a. Mathilda represents the post-watergate generation raised on the saturday morning fast-action color cartoons, and the unedited version of life that the street provides. She understands trade in master terms, the power of money and the need to express love. Portmans performance her is a perfect prelude to her work in "Heat", and "Beautiful Girls" in terms of prodigious expression. We wish all kids were this with-it.
2. Forgive the Action-Exactness detractors: paintball rifles aside, The central park scene has more going on than that, if you look close enough. The pacing of the scenes to the dialogue was picture perfect, Serras score coming full circle, so that when the climax comes, and Leon screams, it is utterly primal.
3. The portable plant wasn't the most important symbol, the milk is: Leon spits out the milk at several of Mathildas advances, and she knew she could get that out of him, as most women know they can from any man. Notice also that most every character in Mathildas house was in their underwear or less when killed. She becomes more dressed the more she lives with Leon. And Leon's struggle to resist her is credible because you can see it, where most films would whitewash this complex everpresent fact-of-life. So, Where was the abuse occurring?
4. Stansfields evil was not in his antics or his drugs, but in the fact that he calmly chose to harm others for his own gain. Never has a villian better explained this than in the bathroom scene at the DEA building. Mathilda faces him with resolution that is fitting, given that in the previous scene, she was teaching Leon to read by using Socrates.
5. Old Tony is the typical audience, uncomfortable, and vulnerable, despite all precautions. He is the mob, we are the mob, and I could go on.
6. What bothers most folks about this movie is not that she will be messed up by all that happened, but the fact that many endure similar or worse trials, and remain sane, if not becoming leaders for our calouses. There is a knowing realism here after all.
By accident, I stumbled upon this film while channel surfing one evening and watched it on television. Only later did I learn that its producer, director, and screenwriter (Luc Bresson) was also the driving force behind La Femme Nikita (1990) which I had already seen. There are several reasons why I find this film so fascinating. First, Jean Reno's Leon is thoroughly professional when completing his paid assignments as an assassin but proves emotionally vulnerable to his 12-year old neighbor Mathilda (Natalie Portman) when she suddenly has neither a family nor a home. Leon takes her in and, over time, she overcomes his reluctance to accept her as his apprentice. Obviously, she feels the need for formal training so she can avenge the loss of her family but also, I think, because she realizes that in the world she surveys, she must be able to protect herself against various enemies such as DEA supervisor Stansfield (Gary Oldman), her chief antagonist. His psychotic personality and violent behavior are at least partly explained by his dependence on drugs, of course, but also because he is determined to eliminate any and all threats to his professional authority and personal safety. To me, the most menacing person in the film, however, is mob boss Tony (Danny Aiello) who supervises Leon's assignments while carefully maintaining a public persona as affable merchant and devoted family man. When street smart Mathilda approaches him near the end of the film, she immediately recognizes his evil nature.
I also enjoyed the series of scenes in which Leon demonstrates his highly-developed professional skills. As in La Femme Nikita, Bresson effectively juxtaposes violence with sometimes unexpected tenderness. Those with a strong appetite for symbolism will probably have much to say about the potted tree plant which accompanies Mathilda and Leon from one residence to the next. I think it is a nice touch but not of major significance. I find it difficult to believe that this is Portman's first film, given the texture and nuances of her performance. Reno is superb throughout. Oldman probably had the most difficult role and is wholly credible as the corrupt DEA official. With regard to the film's conclusion, I commend Bresson for not tying up all the loose ends. Questions remain. For example, given all that has happened to Mathilda throughout the course of the film, what are her options now? Is she adequately prepared to cope with whatever may lie ahead? It would be interesting to check in on her at age 25 or 30. In the meanwhile, we can only speculate on the answers to such questions...and we'd probably be wrong.