“Léon: The Professional,” or simply “Léon,” differs from most thriller films in the sense that it’s actually heartwarming and amusing to an extent.
“Léon” was released in 1994 and was written and directed by acclaimed French director Luc Besson. In a nutshell, it follows the story of a professional hitman named Léon (Jean Reno) who, at first, unwillingly takes under his wing his 12-year old neighbor Mathilda (Natalie Portman) whose entire family was brutally shot to death by Drug Enforcement officer Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman) and his henchmen, believing that Mathilda’s father stole a portion of the dope that he was asked to keep.
“Léon” is excellent in every aspect and all, but what I found to be most interesting was young Portman ‘s portrayal of a complex 12-year old delinquent in every sense of the word. She’s smart beyond her years although she skips school, smokes, curses, hates her family to the core except for her younger brother, harbors thoughts of revenge towards those who murdered her family, and even asks to be trained to become a “cleaner” like Léon. Despite all these, she manages to maintain an aura of innocence about her. It’s almost hard to believe that this was Portman’s feature film debut!
There’s also this bit about Mathilda falling in love with Léon. The girl wasn’t exactly discreet about her feelings for the man old enough to be her dad, but amazingly, this plotline didn’t come out as uncomfortable or disgusting. If anything, I found it hilarious especially with Léon choking on his usual glass of milk whenever Mathilda would say anything that would surprise him!
I honestly only have praises for “Léon.” The entire storyline was great with its hilarious and light and serious and action-packed moments. The actors, too, were all excellent in the portrayal of their respective characters. Reno was almost adorable playing the merciless yet soft-spoken and mild-mannered hitman. Likewise, Oldman was effective portraying the role of the crazed government agent who’s also a big fan of music. I might be almost two decades late for the party, having finally seen it only after watching a documentary about Portman last weekend, but hey, it’s never too late to appreciate good films! Needless to say, “Léon” is now in my list of favorite movies!
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