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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on November 11, 2002
I was a big fan of this film from the first time I saw the much-maligned US version ("The Professional") a few years back. So I was thrilled to see this Uncut version of it on DVD. I finally got to see it this week and have mixed feelings about it. The added footage (at least the footage I can disseminate as being added) is:
GREAT because--
It adds background history to Leon that gives depth to his character. Something I was very much curious about.
NOT SO GREAT because--
1) I'm not sure Leon's character needed that much depth, given the scope/tone of the film's storytelling, 2) It presents *outright* the sexual tension between Leon and Mathilda that is nicely left *implied* in the so-called massacred US version, and finally, 3) The added minutes somehow screw up the pacing of the film. I can't put a finger on why, how, or even where it happens-- but it just does.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some prude who can't take the relationship presented between the two main characters. In fact, the tension is there even in the "cut" US version. But stating it outright just forces a "Lolita" aspect to it that, for me, restricts to a single interpretation of the relationship, and the rest of the dialogue between the two characters.
I still like the movie a lot. I can't say more than what's already been said about Gary Oldman's performance. I haven't seen Episode II, but I'd still be willing to guess that this *IS* Natalie Portman's best role to date. And without giving away too much, Director Luc Besson's handling of what happens to Leon at the end is absolutely the best I've seen ANY director handle that type of ending-- moreso because it's done so well in an "action flick."
Buy the Uncut International Version out of curiosity, and if you're a fan of the film. But the US version ("The Professional") can stand on its own as a great film.
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In "The Professional", Leon (Jean Reno) is a hit man who can go anywhere and kill people without drawing a single bullet. He specializes in walking (almost as if out of walls or thin air)right up to his victims before the killing blow. Nothing about Leon explains why he is so singularly sucessful at the art of breaking, entering and killing and when off duty, we learn that his life is simply a slower version of the death he inflicts on others. He lives in a crumbling Manhattan apartment, sleeping upright and wearing Reno's trademark sunglasses. He has no friends or family and his life boils down to catching old movies in revival houses and caring for his plant. Tony (Danny Aiello), Leon's only contact with the outside world, is also his "agent". When Leon's neighbors are almost entirely killed by a squad of crooked cops led by the thoroughly evil Detective Stansfield (over the top Gary Oldman), the sole survivor of the murdered family, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) runs to Leon for help. Free of both her family and apparently feeling secure from their killers, Mathilda is doubly over-joyed to learn of Leon's special career, and nurtures her own budding dreams of revenge. The two reach an understanding - Mathilda will keep house while Leon trains her in the art of murder. Leon starts her off with a sniper-rifle, educating her on the ethos of assassination - in which expertise is measured by your proximity to your target. (You start with the rifle, but master the art with a knife.) On a deeper level, Leon gives Mathilda something to live for while Mathilda gives Leon somebody to live with. In one classic scene, the two play charades - neither of the two capable of reaching imagery the other can readily understand until Mathilda does Chaplin. Life appears idyllic, considering Leon's bleak surroundings, but that doesn't last long. Probably hoping to wean Mathilda from her dreams of revenge, Leon restrains her impulses, but apparently not enough. When Mathilda goes looking for Stansfield, he ensnares her. Unfortunately, Leon rescues her the only way he knows how - by executing her captors. With the multiple execution of rogue officers by a mysterious Italian hitman who walks right up to his victims coupled with the realization that Mathilda is still alive, Stansfield realizes that he's left unfinished business. Leon, once the hunter, is now the prey.
"The Professional" is sort of an art-house action flick, like "La Femme Nikita" (which also had Jean Reno playing a hired killer), though it gets very slow in the middle, and even the climax is too long drawn out to speed things up. (commercials for this flick had a shot of a tear-gas rocket in flight across a hallway quickly cuts to a mammoth pillar of fire blowing out the front entrance of Leon's building; two events are really separate, and the action is actually slow in the final blow-out). Natalie Portman is haunting as Mathilda, but she clues us in that something is wrong with her before her family is gunned down (she wears trashy clothes and cuts classes; when intercepting a call from school, Mathilda answers back that she's been killed). Still, the film works on the bond that the childlike Leon forges with the pre-adolescent Mathilda, underscoring a poignant closing.
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on August 13, 2001
This film has become a huge cult classic since its release in 1994 but I am sorry to say (for those who love it) that I am not a part of that cult. Although the film is at moments very thrilling and very interesting it does have fatal flaws and elements to its story that bring the whole thing down. Is it a good action film? Yes. Is it worth seeing? Yes. Does it deserve the four and five star reviews? No.
The main flaw is the age of Natalie Portman and her character. I assume that most got past this but I myself could not wrap myself could wrap my mind around a twelve-year-old doing these things. This thought was always in the back of my head as I viewed this film and it was a flaw that brought the movie down. Portman was excellent but she should have been a few years older. Her age doesn't ruin the movie it merely lowers its impact and credibility.
Jean Reno's performance is the highlight of the film and the film is worth seeing for him alone. He really makes this cold, hard killer he plays human and the scenes between Portman and him are great if only for the nervousness in the air between the two created by Reno. Every time he spits his milk is a classic moment. Gary Oldman's performance as the crooked cop is at times good but most of the time it borders dangerously close to overacting and this is crippling to his character. It is hard to get a reading off of him.
Luc Besson's directing is very good with many exciting action scenes (although some veer a little too close to cheesy) and neat little bits of camera work such as the very beginning stuff and the final battle. He has an obvious sense of story and I believe the film is exactly as he wanted it. I have not seen "La Femme Nikita" or the international version of this film but I hope to soon.
So all in all the film is good but with a few major flaws that are always in the back of your mind and bring down the films impact. It is not worth four or five star but I would give it a good three and a half stars for sure. Definitely give it a try and see for yourself
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on March 20, 2001
Gary Oldman is probably the best actor today. In the Professional he again does a very good job. This time he portrays a hit man who reluctantly saves the life of a little girl whose family has just been butchered.
This girl, now an orphan, begins to live with him. This is this film's biggest flaw. If you can believe that a hit man would care for an orphan, you will love this film. If you think that such an action is too unbelievable, this film won't work.
I was in the middle. On her first night there, he says tomorrow you must leave. Instead, she stays. Why? Well, whatever the reason, from this point on he begins to teach her about his life. Yet, in the process of teaching her how to kill, he begins to live again. She, however, is a young girl. Repeatedly in this film she does dumb things which get them into trouble. But, all of the things she does do, fit within the context of the film.
Eventually there is a confrontation between him and her family's killers. There are a few surprises here, but it is pretty predictable from this point on. Overall, this film was a mixed bag. The acting was great. The effects were good. The story? That was its weak point. This film isn't worth attacking, but it doesn't deserve much praise either.
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on August 2, 2000
This is a somewhat unlikely story about a "friendship" between a middle-aged hit-man and a young girl whose family is massacred for drug-related problems. The massacre occurs near the beginning of the movie. Mathilda, the girl, walks by as her father, step-mother, sister and 4 year old brother are killed by the bad guys (corrupt DEA agents). To save herself, Mathilda knocks on her neighbor's door. Her neighbor, a hitman and the "good guy" in this movie, opens the door and gets stuck with her.
Mathilda convinces the hitman to train her so she can avenge the death of her four-year-old brother. She makes it a point that she didn't really care about the rest of her victimized family. The movie goes on to show Mathilda practicing to be a hit-person (hitting a bulls-eye on the first practice shot) and even pretending to be a delivery girl to successfully get into the DEA. The unbelievability of scenes like these are the principal weakness of this movie, along with some of the silly dialogue.
However, the movie also has its strengths including great performances by the lead characters, and the brilliant direction of the action sequences.
Unfortunately, I disagree with most reviewers as to the portrayal of the relationship between the hit-man and Mathilda. There are some innuendos that are quite disturbing. For example, while they are at a hotel, the receptionist refers to the hitman as her father. Mathilda corrects him and says, "He is not my father; he is my lover." In another scene, Mathilda comes out dressed as Madonna (make-up and underclothes exposed)to amuse the hitman. While this can all be viewed as "ok", it was too ambivalent for my comfort.
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on May 28, 2000
The Professional feels like the calculated result of a film studio's marketing decision.
In Luc Besson's previous film, La Femme Nikita, actor Jean Reno had played a mysterious, charismatic hitman/terminator. This force of nature, known as The Cleaner, had made a strong impact on American viewers. Clearly, the Cleaner deserved a film of his own.
He gets his Hollywood vehicle in The Professional, a promising but ultimately flawed American debut by LFN's director Luc Besson.
What had given The Cleaner's role so much punch in LFN, was his tightly executed role within his employer organization, and within the story's much broader context.
But in The Professional, the focus on Jean Reno is claustrophobic. It's as if The Cleaner had been fired from his job and gone solo, to live and kill alone from a dingy, anonymous tenement on the wrong side of town.
Given this premise, Jean Reno inevitably has to carry too much of the film's burden by himself -- character, plot, technique, and all the emotional themes: love, hate, selfishness, selflessness, violence, redemption ...
At the end of the day, we're taught that The Professional is at his best against other professionally trained gunmen like himself, but he is completely out of his depth against the gentle force of platonic love and the deadly venom of drug-induced madness. Those unfamiliar extremes create an ever-widening emotional wedge in The Professional's tightly controlled world, ultimately bringing about the inevitable, violent denouement.
While Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman do an OK job of portraying those two extremes, their characters are scripted in tones too disjointed to credibly counterbalance the dry, gray, lifeless world of The Professional.
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on October 26, 1999
The Professional is that rarest of films: a good action flick. Luc Besson's direction, and Natalie Portman's performance (no wonder she caught the eye of George Lucas) are absolutely first-rate. But the film seemed choppy. Characters seemed to interact in a way that seemed as if they knew more about each other than had been portrayed in the film.
However, it makes sense, when you realize that the European version is substantially longer (by about an hour I think). I would have enjoyed seeing the somewhat ambiguous relationship between Mathilda and Leon develop more. This is a good American version of what I am sure was a great European film. I understand the Hollywood mentality of keeping every film under 2 hours (unless it's directed by Kevin Costner or Steven Spielberg), but when you release something on DVD, you should release ALL of it.
Shame on you, DVD-makin' folks. We demand more!
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on January 5, 2001
If you're a Jean Reno fan, you'll love this. The movie has everything you want, until about 30 minutes in, when his character considers shooting Natalie Portman's Matilde. Prior to that point, it's great (particularly when Reno's character goes to the movies). Afterwards, it's hokey and unbelievable. Also, and maybe this is a "cultural thing", but Besson clearly believes that the prepubescent (at this time) Portman is sexually interesting. Aiello, Portman, and Oldman all do very well, and of course Reno never makes a false move, so what's wrong here? Either the screenplay or the director, I think.
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on September 3, 2000
This movie is great, I love it! But if you're getting this DVD expecting awesome Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, don't bother. When playing the movie in DD5.1 the rear surrounds are almost absent. You can only faintly hear any sound when you hold your ear up to it. The pro-logic track sounds far better. If you have an awesome surround sound setup, you might want to think twice, because the mix sounds more like 3.1 surround rather than 5.1.
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on August 30, 2000
Die-hard Besson/Reno fans will disagree with me, but here's how I see The Professional: good concept, good team ... so-so execution.
Want a much cooler version of this story? See Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch.
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