With Léon, Luc Besson set a high bar for the rest of his directing career, making one of the best movies of the 90’s, and to this date, likely his best film (although I’ll always love Fifth Element). It’s one I’ve always been meaning to see, partly because I’ll watch Jean Reno in anything, but also because it’s Natalie Portman’s breakout role. The two of them are great together, and the odd relationship between them is absolutely what makes this movie so good. The fact that it also has incredibly badass (albeit, super 90’s) action scenes is just icing on the cake. Léon is an action-packed coming of age story mashed into a thrilling crime-drama, and Luc Besson pulls it off with ease.
The story of Léon: The Professional (technically the movies name, although it’s referred to as just ‘Léon’ many places) begins with witnessing just how ‘professional’ Léon is. He’s a hitman, and an incredible one at that. He wipes out over a half a dozen big bulky mob guys before getting to the head honcho, and scares him out of town with a knife to a throat. Léon then goes home, sips on some milk, and goes to sleep sitting on his couch. Later on, he passes by a young girl, Mathilda, who is a neighbor on his floor. She lives with a deadbeat dad, his girlfriend, and her sister and brother. When her dad is found out to be taking drugs from a corrupt cop and his crew, (Gary Oldman) they come back and kill the entire family. Mathilda walks home from buying groceries, right past her dead family and their apartment (still inhabited by Gary Oldman and gang) and walks right up to Léon’s door, as he reluctantly lets her in. From that point, she lives with him, and slowly over time, convinces Léon to teach her how to be a ‘cleaner’ like him.
The best part of this movie isn’t even the great action that kicks off the beginning, and caps the third act. The characters, and actors playing them deserve all the praise here. Jean Reno is able to tap into so many different characteristics with Léon, being intimidating, tranquil, and kind, sometimes all at the same time. He shows his heart when first interacting with Mathilda, making her laugh after her family had just been killed. However, Mathilda is the real star of the movie in my eyes. She’s a clever, intelligent, and curious young girl, who really helps keep the movie feeling so light in tone. The other lead in the movie is Gary Oldman, who is swinging for the damn fences in this one. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him so unhinged in anything, except for maybe Fifth Element. His drug addicted crooked cop is an absolute force of chaos, and you never know what he’s going to do next.
What I kept thinking about during this movie, was how I would LOVE to see a sequel to Léon. The movie is practically a prequel by today’s standards, with the student becoming the master by the end. Also, the fact that Natalie Portman could reprise her role as Mathilda would be amazing. I could just picture it now: Mathilda walking up to a penthouse with her pistols, slipping on her Léon glasses and beanie, before blasting the whole place up. The character of Mathilda is so fun to watch and well-written, that I think it’d be really interesting to see how she grew up over those 20-25 years after Léon. Get it done, Hollywood!
That’s it for today’s write-up, stay tuned for more coming this week. I’m going to start burning through some new suggestions, and I’ve finally got an extensive list to keep me organized. As usual, if you have any suggestions, or thoughts on the blog, I’d love to hear them, so hit me up on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for reading!