My friends and colleagues have always harped to me how great Leon:
the Professional was and whether it was some cosmic algorithm or my
laziness, I’ve never had the chance to experience it… until now.
Needless to say, I was missing out on something and to make the
experience even more memorable, I had the pleasure of viewing it on
Blu-ray as Jean Reno stars as Leon with a standout performance by a
young Natalie Portman as Mathilda.
At the helm of this movie is Luc Besson, director extraordinaire who
really knows how to utilise not only the camera but certain scenes in
the movie which balances the action sequences quite well. Although we
have been spoiled with action films from Hollywood, Besson doesn’t
generally follow the standard formula, even though action lovers are
rewarded with some amazing gun blazing battles.
For the uninitiated like
myself, the story stars Jean Reno as Leon, a professional hitman whose
life is soon about to change. We learn that Leon’s neighbour is Mathilda, a young girl who is abused by parents and when her parents and
younger brother are killed by a ruthless gang leader called Stansfield
(Gary Oldman), he does the most unexpected thing and takes Mathilda
under his wings. As opposed to the father figure that Leon wants to be
for Mathilda, she on the other hand wishes to be trained by Leon in
order for her get revenge on Stansfield.
This is the crux of the movie and although he lives by a strict code of
murderous ethics and considers him a “cleaner” by ridding the world of
bad people, Mathilda still contains that innocence which she wishes to
discard that causes an interestingly relationship between the two. I
love how Besson gets into the headspace of Leon as a man who has been
killing for longer than he can remember but now, his life has meaning
and the chance of some normality with Mathilda. Can a violent killer be
reformed or will Mathilda become another one of his unintended victims?
Its questions like this that make Leon: the Professional such a
gripping film from start to finish.
Besson also made a great choice in
the actors, especially Jean Reno who portrays more than just a black and
white hitman with a personal set of ethics. On the other hand we have Natalie
Portman, a young girl who wants nothing more than revenge on the man who
murdered her little brother and this is probably one of her best
performances to date. The only let down in cast is Oldman who is once again
stereotyped as this seedy gangster like character who does have a couple
of standout scenes which are extremely creepy.
On Blu-ray, Leon: the Professional looks quite impressive for a
film of 16 years of age with sharp images and some great clarity. At
times, the colours in the movie are quite vibrant and then all of a
sudden, you’re thrown into the grim and gritty world of crime as you are
taken to a variety of grisly environments. There is a little bit of grain but
considering the age of the film, it’s definitely nothing to worry about.
Audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 and really makes use of your surround sound,
especially when the bullets start whizzing by. The dialogue is clear,
the music has good levels and all in all, it works in conjunction with
the story and the video.
For extras, Leon: the Professional
contains a wide gamut of interesting titbits and takes the viewer on an
interesting journey of how this movie was created and LEON: 10 years on. This is how movies
should be made and when people have forgotten about films such as The
Expendables or Hitman, Leon: the Professional will still remain
the standout title when all these other films have long been forgotten.
DVD Special Features
Original theatrical cut
Extended director's cut
LEON: 10 Year Retrospective
Jean Reno: The Road to Leon
Natalie Portman: Starting Young