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 'LÉON' 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 Leone "Léon" Montana [Jean Reno] to take revenge. Natalie Portman made her film debut with this film.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1995 Czech Lion: Won: Best Foreign Language Film. Golden Reel Award: Won: Best Sound Editing for a Foreign Feature. 1995 César Awards: Nominated: Best Film, Best Actor for Jean Reno. Nominated: Best Director for Luc Besson. Nominated: Best Music for Éric Serra. Nominated: Best Cinematography for Thierry Arbogast. Nominated: Best Editing for Sylvie Landra. Nominated: Best Sound. Norman Stansfield [Gary Oldman] has since been named by several publications as one of cinema's greatest villains.
Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Peter Appel, Willi One Blood, Don Creech, Keith A. Glascoe, Randolph Scott, Michael Badalucco, Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Regen, Carl J. Matusovich, Frank Senger, Lucius Wyatt Cherokee, Eric Challier, Luc Bernard, Maïwenn, Jessie Keosian, George Martin, Abdul Hassan Sharif, Stuart Rudin, Kent Broadhurst, Tommy Hollis, Peter Linari, Johnny Limo, Danny Peled, Seth Jerome Walker, Michael Mundra, Alex Dezen, Betty Miller, Geoffrey Bateman, Arsène Jiroyan, Peter Vizard, Joseph Malerba, Robert LaSardo, Steve Gonnelo, William James Stiggers Jr., Anthony Ragland, Sonny Zito, Rocky Hernandez, Randy Pearlstein, Trevor Walace, Keith S. Bullock, Jeff McBride, Peter Justinius, Thomas Delehanty, Ed Ventresca, Wallace Wong, Cary Wong, Adam Busch, Mario Todisco, Jernard Burks, Matt De Matt, Tony Sauraye, Thierry Maurio, James Fahrner, Daniel Schenmetzler, Jean-Hugues Anglade (long version) (uncredited), Hélène Cardona (uncredited), Alyssia Dujmovich (uncredited) and Michael Wehrhahn (uncredited)
Director: Luc Besson
Producers: Bernard Grenet, Claude Besson, John Garland, Luc Besson and Patrice Ledoux
Screenplay: Luc Besson
Composer: Éric Serra
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 110 minutes and 106 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: French auteur director 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 and it's cinema at its finest.
In New York City's underworld, Leone "Léon" Montana [Jean Reno] is a "cleaner," a professional hit-man for a mobster named Tony [Danny Aiello]. Leone "Léon" Montana 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 and 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.
Leone "Léon" Montana'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 Norman Stansfield [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 Leone "Léon" Montana 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 Leone "Léon" Montana's defences, it isn't long before she's welcomed under his wing and into his heart. My favourite scene is when Leone "Léon" Montana's and Mathilda play charades, especially dressed up as Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin is guaranteed to make you laugh. That scene also perfectly sums up their unorthodox relationship.
Although 'LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL' does share a few similarities with 'NKITA' (was even inspired by Jean Reno's "cleaner" character in 'LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL') and 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 Leone "Léon" Montana and Mathilda in an area completely clouded in grey and 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. Jean Reno is really at the top of his game here, juggling the two very distinct personalities of his character with dexterous precision. In "serious" mode Leone "Léon" Montana 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 Leone "Léon" Montana 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.
Overall, 'LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL' is a very clever action film with a historic duo. The three important characters of Léon, Matilda and Norman Stansfield [Gary Oldman] all bring the goods and rock the screen. It's not for everyone with its dark and twisted themes but it's a brilliant film for mature audiences. It might be a bit cliché ridden nowadays with the opening that just has to be the hero killing a bunch of guys to show that he's not to be trifled with but it all works. Nothing feels stale and so overall a real tour-de-force action thriller, that will grip you from beginning to the end credits, plus it is also a very clever action film, but it's the 1990s type of action film which means it's almost unescapable of being a guilty pleasure. It does manage to avoid that but it isn't a masterpiece it is just really good and totally action packed film to set your pulses racing.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' The 1080p 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. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray Region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality ' There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio. 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 Director's Cut and Theatrical Version, but apart from that, only brief interviews with Jean Reno and composer Eric Serra are included.
Directors Cut  [2.35:1] [110 minutes]
Theatrical Version  [2.35:1] [106 minutes]
Special Feature: Interview with Jean Reno [1080p] [6:45] In this new video interview, actor Jean Reno recalls his work with young Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman and the two became big friends after the film was completed, and discusses the style and tone of the film.
Special Feature: Interview with Eric Serra [1080p] [9:40] 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.
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