Review: Leon: The Professional (1994)
This masterpiece of action and drama from almighty director Luc Besson is a picture that I try to get back and watch at least once every year or so. To any who have not seen this picture, I highly recommend it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out on one of the best films of all time. Not only does Besson provide a simple yet compelling story that ranges across the genres of action and drama, Leon: The Professional feature some of the most outstanding performances you’ll ever see from a very young Natalie Portman and a very evil Gary Oldman.
The story is a simple one. Oldman plays Stansfield, a corrupt narcotics officer who ends up killing off an entire family in his quest to find his drugs. Portman is Matilda, the one daughter of the family who manages to survive this purge. And Jean Reno plays the part of Leon, a simple immigrant who also happens to be an amazingly effective hit man. After the death of her family, Matilda makes her way to a neighbor’s house and that neighbor happens to be Leon. He lets her in despite misgivings and then spends the rest of the movie trying to keep her from harm at the hands of the crazy Stansfield. This eventually leads to some confrontations and not everything ends well for Leon and his charge.
The glory of Leon is by far the performances put on by Portman and Oldman. Portman plays a dark role at a young age and pulls it off beautifully, setting her career up for future complicated and dark roles, such as in V for Vendetta or Black Swan. Even in her youth she displayed a remarkable talent for the melancholy and this movie shows it off. Oldman’s portrayal of Stansfield is nothing less than epic evil. His villain is one for the record books and has become iconic among those familiar with the greatest villains of all time. There has rarely been a character as wrong in the head and vicious as Stansfield and Oldman is one of the few who could have even tried to play this role. Reno is, well, Reno. He’s never been the most versatile actor but he does a great job as an ignorant immigrant with a penchant for killing. The scenes of him trying to relate to the young Matilda are particularly heartwarming and funny.
Altogether, I would consider Leon: The Professional as one of the greatest action movies of all time. It is a complex story with plenty of gunfire and no want of talented actors. Again, if you haven’t seen it yet, take some time out to give it a watch. I advise the director’s cut if you want to get the full effect.