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Leon: The Professional
Year:
1994
Country:
France
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
8.6
Director:
Luc Besson
Jean Reno as Léon
Gary Oldman as Stansfield
Natalie Portman as Mathilda
Danny Aiello as Tony
Peter Appel as Malky
Willi One Blood as 1st Stansfield man
Don Creech as 2nd Stansfield man
Keith A. Glascoe as 3rd Stansfield man (Benny)
Randolph Scott as 4th Stansfield man
Michael Badalucco as Mathilda's Father
Ellen Greene as Mathilda's Mother
Elizabeth Regen as Mathilda's Sister
Carl J. Matusovich as Mathilda's Brother
Frank Senger as Fatman
Storyline: After her father, mother, older sister and little brother are killed by her father's employers, the 12-year-old daughter of an abject drug dealer is forced to take refuge in the apartment of a professional hitman who at her request teaches her the methods of his job so she can take her revenge on the corrupt DEA agent who ruined her life by killing her beloved brother.
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Reviews
Excellent film. Natalie Portman is superb.
'Léon' is a classic.

The plot is gripping and dramatic, keeps you on edge.

It starts off with the brutal killings of Mathilda's family but she isn't there at the time so avoids it. She comes back while the bad guys are still there and knocks on Léon's door hoping for help. This scene could have been so simple with the door just opening, but I loved how emotional this bit was. This is where I really started to feel for the characters as we saw through the spy hole tears running down Natalie Portman's face. This is where the film really starts as the two plot revenge together. The character development in this one is just great.

The action scenes are just fantastic and so fast paced. The acting is excellent (How Natalie Portman didn't win any awards for her role as Mathilda I don't know).

It's hard to go into more details without potentially spoiling this one, just be sure to watch it. You won't be disappointed. If you like a film with good character development, fast paced action and a film that grabs your complete attention, this is for you.

10/10.
2013-10-16
"I take no pleasure in taking life..."
"...if it's from a person who doesn't care about it."

What really stands out for me (aside from the really excellent direction of the action sequences) is the too-brilliant for its own good script. Oldman,Reno, and Portman deliver lines that would seem goofy if spoken by lesser performers. Oldman especially chews the scenery in a way that's both amusing and utterly menacing. I wonder if his Beethoven obsession is a nod to the ultra-violent Alex from A Clockwork Orange?

The American version ("The Professional") was the first version I saw. I'd originally had no real intention of seeing it because I'd read a pretty savage review of it likening it to child pornography. Clearly this particular reviewer had his head firmly planted in his rear. I'm surprised he could find room what with that tremendous stick in the way. Anyway, once I finally saw "Leon" for myself - thanks to my cinemaphile grandfather - I observed no such thing. This wasn't smut, it was love. Leon has no interest in Matilda sexually, but loves her as a father would love a daughter.

If you have a choice then go for the longer director's cut. You get about 15 minutes more film - and not just filler. These are scenes that truly expand upon the story.

My only complaints are about the almost complete under use of the completely underrated Danny Aiello, and Oldman's single dimensional evilness.
2005-02-24
Still one of the more quotable, entertaining, touching and flat out enjoyable films I've ever seen.
Léon is pure film-making, outstanding just as it is hypnotic just as it is out and out entertaining. Known as The Professional to others, Luc Besson's debut English language film captures the essence of evil on screen just as it does the potential hope other individuals may carry amidst all the gloom and depression in one of cinema's favourite down and out cities: New York. Why Léon is such an unrecognised film is quite bewildering – IMDb has it grossing a modest $19 Million dollars but it won two awards and garnered a few other nominations. Everyone likes a hero and most people like a story where two people (usually of opposite genders) connect in certain times of hardship amidst a locale of no hope – at its core, Léon could be seen as exactly this.

The film is a tale of revenge, a love story and a crime drama complete with hit men, criminals, bent police men and innocent young girls caught up in the middle. The film presents to us how one event or one act of greed can act as a catalyst for bigger and nastier things, on a much larger scale than first intended and the film also brings a certain humane quality to worn out clichés and typical characters for the genre; like Tarantino and the Coen brothers at the height of their quality as seen in Pulp Fiction and Fargo respectively, this is Luc Besson stripping down the screen and delivering on a simplistic but immensely satisfying level.

The ingredients work in Léon. At its heart, a vulnerable hero in Mathilda (Portman) who is established to be living in a 'world' that is less than perfect but is a hero whose life is changed by an outside, unseen event and must then realise this as a trigger for not only her desire for revenge, but the propulsion into the real world in which she will learn the skills she needs and generally mature. The idea, or formula, is best presented in the training montage Léon (Reno) himself and Mathilda partake in to a popular Björk song – it is the classic case of passing time to a montage to signify maturity and learning.

But this is in no way a criticism as much as it is recognising and appreciating effectiveness. Mathilda's goal is to avenge the death of not her family as such, but her little brother who she deemed was innocent at merely eight or so years old. By this rational, her mother and sister were also innocent but Mathilda just doesn't appreciate them as much to avenge their deaths. The film's principal study begins with its hero on the verge of suicide, as a scene over the phone with a correctional institute tells us: Mathilda mimics her mother and tells the woman on the phone that Mathilda's death is the reason she hasn't been attending school. It is the low point of Mathilda's life and occurs just prior to the point of no return in which corrupt DEA officers blow away the rest of the family. The point of no return is signified beautifully as Mathilda walks past the wreckage of her apartment, gazing in slow motion, and rings the bell on Léon's door – the door opens and light fills the screen as she is accepted.

The film actually fills up a lot of its time prior to this with Léon himself, not necessarily tricking the audience as to who the film will be about, but informing us of the type of person that awaits Mathilda. Indeed, the opening scenes or indeed shots of the camera towering over Central Park and down a New York street presents to us the location of New York in all its grimy glory as we delve deep within the heart of the city, all the time the tracking shots getting closer to ground level and all the time getting nearer to its destination, a café run by a man named Tony (Aiello). The first we see of Léon are his round sunglasses, creating a physical barrier between us, the audience, and the identity of this man whom downs glasses of milk in no time and talks casually about killing people for money.

But the following scenes of Léon happy, enjoying himself and getting on with ironing and watering plants breaks off from stereotypical hit-man personas and gives us a different light. This leads to Léon's first encounter with Mathilda during which he tells her life is "always like this", this twinned with the fact we know she's potentially suicidal makes the audience uneasy. But, she seems jolly and happy when she goes to the store for Léon – she is out and about and doing something for someone else that she deems worthy of such attention, which will echo the understanding and the relationship they'll soon have. Incidentally, later on Tony's warning about change being 'a bad thing' and that Léon was in trouble before over a woman paints a potentially ominous picture.

The villain of the piece is Norman Stansfield (Oldman) who is a very intimate and aggressive character and Oldman plays him in a way that suggests someone who could go from green to red or from calm to sociopathic in a matter of seconds. The fact he tells one of his men to tell the police that "we were doing our job" hints that the sort of prior violent activity is not unfamiliar to Stansfield and co. further creating a dangerous opinion of the characters in our minds – they are not to be messed with. Léon is a tale of a young protagonist having to learn the hard way and still not really being up to scratch; it is a hybrid of crime, drama, romance and tragedy that spirals out of control but remains dramatic and heart wrenching all the same – Besson has made few English language films but there will always be Léon.
2008-12-05
A Perfect Chemistry
In New York, León (Jean Reno) is an Italian professional hit-man, who loves drinking milk and has a plant as his best friend. His godfather and mentor is the mobster Tony (Danny Aiello), who loves León as if he were his own son, and his cold blood makes him a perfect killer. When Stansfield (Gary Oldman) and his gang executes the family of his twelve years old neighbor Mathilda (Natalie Portman), León lodges the girl in his place, beginning a weird friendship between a killer and a confused girl wishing revenge. When Mathilda finds who Stansfield is, she presses León to kill him.

'León' is a wonderful movie, having one of the most perfect chemistry in the cinema between Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. The storyline recalls some parts of John Cassavetes' 'Gloria', but the performances of the debutant Natalie Portman and the always-excellent Jean Reno upgrade this film. There are at least three scenes that I really love: the light on the corridor, when León opens the door for Mathilda; when they are walking together in a New York street, coming towards the camera; and when Stansfield hits León. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'O Profissional' ('The Professional')
2004-12-07
Amazing Movie...
Besson seems fascinated by the "Pygmalion" story, by the notion of a feral street person who is transformed by education. He crosses that with what seems to be an obsession with women who kill as a profession. These are interesting themes, and if "The Professional" doesn't work with anything like the power of "La Femme Nikita," it is because his heroine is 12 years old, and we cannot persuade ourselves to ignore that fact. It colors every scene, making some unlikely and others troubling. The film opens with one of those virtuoso shots which zips down the streets of New York and in through a door, coming to a sudden halt at a plate of Italian food and then looking up at its owner. Besson must have been watching the opening of the old Letterman show. The man eating the food is a mob boss, played by Danny Aiello, who wants to put a contract on a guy. The man who has come whizzing through the streets is Leon (Jean Reno), a skillful but uneducated "cleaner," or professional hit-man. We see him at work, in opening scenes of startling violence and grim efficiency. In the course of the movie, Leon will, in effect, adopt his neighbor Matilda (Natalie Portman), a tough, streetwise, 12-year old girl. She escapes to Leon's nearby apartment after her family has been wiped out by a crooked top DEA enforcer named Stansfield (Gary Oldman), who wants to kill her too. Matilda wants to hire Leon to avenge the death of her little brother; in payment, she offers to do his laundry. Leon wants nothing to do with the girl, but she insists, and attaches herself like a leech. Eventually she develops an ambition to become a cleaner herself. And their fate plays out like those of many another couple on the lam, although with that 30-year age difference. Matilda is played with great resourcefulness by Portman, who is required by the role to be, in a way, stronger than Leon. She has seen so many sad and violent things in her short life, and in her dysfunctional family, that little in his life can surprise her. She's something like the Jodie Foster character in "Taxi Driver," old for her years. Yet her references are mostly to movies: "Bonnie and Clyde didn't work alone," she tells him. "Thelma and Louise didn't work alone. And they were the best." (To find a 12-year old in 1994 who knows "Bonnie and Clyde" is so extraordinary that it almost makes everything else she does plausible.) So Leon finds himself saddled with a little sidekick, just when the manic Stansfield is waging a personal vendetta against him. Although "The Professional" bathes in grit and was shot in the scuzziest locations New York has to offer, it's a romantic fantasy, not a realistic crime picture. Besson's visual approach gives it a European look; he finds Paris in Manhattan. That air of slight displacement helps it get away with various improbabilities, as when Matilda teaches Leon to read (in a few days, apparently), or when Leon is able to foresee the movements of his enemies with almost psychic accuracy. This gift is useful during several action sequences in "The Professional," when Leon, alone and surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of law officers, is able to conceal himself in just such a way that when the cops enter an apartment in just such a manner, he can swing down from the ceiling, say, and blast them. Or he can set a trap for them. Or he can apparently teleport himself from one part of an apartment to another; they think they have him cornered, but he's behind them. So many of the movie's shoot-outs unfold so conveniently for him that they seem choreographed. The Oldman character sometimes seems to set himself up to be outsmarted, while trying to sneak up on Leon in any way not actually involving chewing through the scenery. The premise "La Femme Nikita" was that its heroine began as a thoroughly uncivilized character without a decent bone in her body, and then, after society exploited her savagery, she was slowly civilized through the love of a good, simple man. "The Professional" uses similar elements, rearranged. It is a well-directed film, because Besson has a natural gift for plunging into drama with a charged-up visual style. And it is well acted. But always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action. In a more serious movie, or even in a human comedy like Cassavetes' "Gloria," the child might not have been out of place. But in what is essentially an exercise - a slick urban thriller - it seems to exploit the youth of the girl without really dealing with it.
2015-07-16
Besson teaches you how to be a professional
Adulations for Luc Besson for portraying one of the best classic crime flicks i have seen in a long time.This time its a hit-man movie.The names Leon aka 'The Professional'.Jean Reno gives a commanding performance as the loner named Leon.And what should i stay about Gary Oldman(Stanfield).His acting is just too good in this film.Even the dialog's that he states have a terrific impact on the movie.Natalie Portman(Mathilda)has given a stupendous performance here.Never ever i have seen a better performance from a child of that age.

Plots good.Leon must take care of her neighbor Mathilda after her family was hunted down by Stansfield because of a drug problem. Leon starts to teach Mathilda her trade.How to clean??The ending is quite surprising & i was amazed by the screenplay in this movie.It was just terrific.Great work by Luc Besson.Directing is pretty cool.

This movie is underrated as many of my friends haven't heard of it.But those who have scene,they surely appreciate.The soundtrack too is fabulous adding spice to the movie.

Leon said "No Women,No Kids".Truly this movie is for men only.But everyone who watches this will surely become a fan of Leon.
2010-03-09
Terrific!
I only bought this film a few days ago because Gary Oldman was in it. I never realised what a masterpiece it was. Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman are all brilliant in this wonderful triangle.

Is there a role that Gary Oldman cannot pull off with style? Even in his poorer films such as LOST IN SPACE, he is still able to bring it to a watchable level. This is definetly in my top 5 favourite Gary Oldman films.

I found the love bit (what Mathilde feels for Leon) a bit dodgy but hey the girl is 12- her emotions were running wild!

Definetly worth a buy and it deserve its place in the IMDB Top 250 films of all time!
2003-11-27
Milk.
I have been dying to buy Leon for years now and when i saw it on the top shelf at my local music store (why it was there i don't know) i bought it straight away, went home and watched it and it was awesome. The directing was as smooth as a circle, the writing inventive, the action was limited but awesome when it was there, the acting holds up mostly and then there is the greatest villain of them all, Gary Oldman. Starting with the acting, Jean Reno aced his performance and really did portray the 'cleaner' profession, i really do wish all films based around hit-men could be like this, i really do. The writing, it sustained a brisk pace throughout the movie and plotted twists and turns in different places creating this fantastic film. But there is one character who i find unusually disturbing and this was Matilda played by Natalie Portman, Matilda was weird, disturbing and a little bit looney, but on the other hand she is still a innocent kid who loves to copycat and play games, yet she acts like an adult to lure Leon into her trap where who knows what would have happened. Matilda disturbed me yet showed me the innocence of childhood and that is exactly what a charterer like her should do, divide your opinion and question their every move. Then there is Gary Oldman, and he honestly was more disturbing, you could see the insanity in his eyes, yet he could be disturbingly calm or the complete opposite and we never actually get to know his character which i love to see, every film needs a character like this, i think it just keeps the audience on the edge of their seat just connecting the dots. To conclude i feel as if Leon has made it into my top 10 favourite films of all time so i award it with a 9/10.
2014-05-16
Mastery of Crime and Drama
Luc Besson's Leon is blessed with so many qualities that it not only excels in its crime-thriller genre but also in the general art of cinematography.

The french director stays simple in his brilliance, to deliver an intense but deeply human thriller. Filming is subtle and intelligent, with discreet special effects that give the movie a feel a realism. The composition is tight : the 110 minutes leave time to deliver a good plot, generous action and excellent character development.

This is achieved by the excellent actors portraying the three main characters. Gary Oldman expertly becomes the butchery obsessed, corrupt DEA agent. Natalie Portman is a revelation playing 12 year-old Mathilda. She shows the complexity of a strong charactered abandoned girl in a seemingly effortless performance. Jean Reno is extraordinary as Leon, the killer who lives a life of paradox, between the violence of his employment and his apparent naivety. The unlikely formation of a link between the two latter characters is the heart of the movie, where the young girl gives Leon a taste of life.

Leon is an exceptional film : combining suspense and drama, subtleness and brilliance, Luc Besson signs a masterful jewel of cinematography.
2006-02-20
I don't think I have ever seen a movie more than I have Léon: The Professional
LTP speaks to me, not only through dialogue, camera or score but through aesthetic. Yes, aesthetic. LTP has influenced every fiber of my (aesthetical?) being since first being exposed to it at age nine when I tried to grow Leon's beard. I couldn't believe it when my mum told me that growing a beard would be impossible. With my dreams crushed, I swore LTP out of my life forever.

I revisited it again at age thirteen, convinced that I was at the peak of mental maturity and beard-growing abilities. I believed I understood this film on a deep- artistic-philosophical level, I wrote personal essays on the films philosophical merit for high-school, I recommended it to all of my tween friends but then assured them that they "probably wouldn't understand it's depth anyway". In attempt to find people who just GOT the film y'know, I turned to the streets; making alleyway handshake deals of USB's containing a pirated LTP movie file to other like-minded intellectuals. "Trust me Gustav, all it takes is just one taste," I said to Gustav, "Please leave me alone weird short red-head girl, I don't know you. And my name is Jeremy!" Jere-Gustav replied. That Gustav always had a sense of humour. Anyway, it didn't really work out, not even the streets were ready.

At fifteen I watched LTP three more times within that year. With what little pocket money I had, I bought a replica of Léon's sunglasses, beanie and the little pot plant that Mathilda had. I even wore my dad's old black coat for dramatic effect, shoulder pads still intact. I also had decided to postpone my deep-philosophical- artistic tirade attempts; instead I focused solely on channeling my Inner Léon Look™.

Sixteen years old, I was dedicated to replicating Léon as a person. I tried taking stray children under my wing, knocking on apartment complex doors screaming for Mathilda or the male equivalent; Mathias. Neither was found. I suppressed my many crushed hopes and dreams by watching LTP four more times, within a week.

It wasn't until I was seventeen that I realised I had forgotten my original wayward ways; I no longer thought about the philosophy of LTP, or the mind bending obstacles it creates for the viewer to ponder over, or even the foreshadowing that we will forever wish we thought of first as a stylistic device. Now at almost nineteen, I realise this is probably because Léon: The Professional doesn't truly quell any hidden meanings to decipher. It's simply put; a goddamn awesome action flick that focuses on a father/daughter like relationship and ends with sweet sweet avenged death. A film/movie/flick doesn't need to bend the laws of physics itself to be rated five out of five stars or ten out of ten stars or one hundred fresh tomatoes. My former years were wasted trying to justify why I loved it so much, when I just needed to accept the fact it was no 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that's okay. It explains why I have stuck with the Léon aesthetic. This isn't really a review, just a long-winded story about how I came to a conclusion about my feelings for this movie.

TLDR: Renno and Portman r gr8, story is cool, not that deep, aesthetic is nice, Luc Besson is an everyday genius, boom bang, cry, fin. Repeat.
2016-01-22
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