“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 1994 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Luc Besson / Actors: Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, Peter Appel, Danny Aiello ... / DVD released 2009-09-14 at Optimum Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Colour, Director's Cut, PAL, Widescreen „
"Leon" is a 1994 thriller film which was directed by Luc Besson, who has also directed such films as "Subway" (1985), "The Fifth Element" (1997), and "Angel-A" (2005).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 110 minutes in length and stars Jean Reno ("Ronin", "The Da Vinci Code", "22 Bullets") as Leon, Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Dracula", "Sid and Nancy") as Stansfield, and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan", "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace", "Your Highness") as Mathilda.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A professional assassin rescues a young girl whose parents were killed in a police raid.
The film began as an idea Luc Besson had while he was working on his 1990 offering, "La Femme Nikita". A character who appeared in that film, Victor the Cleaner, was played by Jean Reno and had very similar traits to Leon. The film was Besson's breakthrough, and, some would say, his defining moment as director, producer and writer. "Leon" gained huge respect from the Box Office upon its release and takes its place, at the time of writing, at No.27 in IMDB's top 250. The film was nominated for many awards, but nothing from the Academy Awards. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with a conversation between Tony (Danny Iello) and Leon. They are talking about hitting someone, and Tony asks if Leon is free Tuesday. Leon calmly replies "Yeah, I'm free Tuesday." What follows after that is the cold and calm pride Leon exerts in doing his job as he systematically takes out the target's henchmen one by one before spying through a bullet hole and setting one eye on his mark. Leon finds his target and makes him call his boss. Tony then tells him to make sure he gets out of town.
The first serious scene is one of the most disturbingly violent of any film I've ever seen. Stansfield bursts into Mathilda's apartment and proceeds to blast away with a pump-action shotgun. A scene of carnage ensues as he blasts one family member in the back, kicks open the bathroom door, reloads and fires again into the tub. I guess it's the manner in which he does it that shocks, because he's supposed to be a police officer upholding the law, and yet here he is killing an entire family without any bit of remorse.
The relationship between Leon and Mathilda is a strange and complicated one, and something which caused a little controversy when it was released because of the age - believed to be around 14 - of the young girl. She clearly grows to love Leon in a sexual way as well as a fatherly way but his feelings are different and he tries to stop the physical attraction from happening. Towards the end of the film, Leon makes a decision which would change the course of their relationship. Though I am not going to give a blatant spoiler, I feel the choice me makes was the only one he could make. The film had around 25 minutes cut from it, which went into more detail about the relationship between the two - scenes which apparently left screening audiences uncomfortable. These scenes are, however, included in the extended version.
Also of note are the littler things which almost go unnoticed. Leon's plant, for example. For a contract killer, he is very protective of his plant (a Japanese Peace Lilly) and during the film, it goes from hotel room to hotel room with Leon and Mathilda. A similar occurrence happens in "Hot Fuzz" as Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) takes his plant with him to nurture. I Leon's slowness may have been a recurring theme - not that caring for plants makes you slow - I just think he had a below average IQ. He giggles at films in the cinema, and a short scene between Leon and Mathilda with Piggy - an oven glove - is one of joy, but perhaps the most light-hearted moment comes when the pair are playing a dressing-up game. Mathilda dresses as Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and others, but Leon still has no idea who they are.
The action scenes throughout the film have excellent choreography, which must have taken awhile to perfect. Leon's perfection with an array of weapons is staggering, and the knowledge to stage some of the scenes could only have come from someone who has done something like that for real - a Special Forces consultant, maybe. There are some instances where it is a little overkill, but it is done in such a way that it doesn't feel like a body count is happening, and it all makes absolute sense. I think it was probably just right, compared to something like "Commando" or "Rambo", for example, where the kill count is ridiculously and unbelievably high.
I can't help but like Leon, who was brilliantly played by Jean Reno. He's a lovable rogue who is good at his job as a hitman but also has a kind side to him, which is evident in his growing relationship with Mathilda. There was talk on the extras of Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves being interested in the role, but, according to Luc Besson, Reno was the only actor he ever considered to play Leon, and who can argue with his choice? Jean Reno went on to play parts in some very successful films after this one, but it is "Leon" which will almost always be on the tongue if anyone was asked to name a film he was in.
This was Natalie Portman's film debut, which surprises some because of her acting maturity throughout. She is obviously a big household name now largely due to the success of the second helping of the "Star Wars" trilogy in 1999, 2002 and 2005, but it is clear that she was destined for stardom. In the film, Mathilda is said to be 14 years of age but has an air about her which makes her appear to be wiser than she looks. She almost comes across as someone who was in control of her own destiny and always wanted to do what Leon does for a living. There had been talk of a planned sequel with Portman's character having moved on and become a contract killer herself, but Luc Besson has gone on record to state that he would not direct it, and Portman also said that if Besson was not attached to any sequel, she would not be on-board either.
Gary Oldman had a particular trait about his acting work, in which every part he played, he was killed off. "Sid & Nancy", "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "JFK" spring to mind of a few in which he has died. I obviously am not going to give the game away here, but I think here he has a character to be very proud of in Stansfield. It is said that he was able to enjoy a free role to make the character his own and he improvises a lot of what he does on the screen. Stansfield is obviously quite psychotic and a drug addict, and though it is never known which drug he takes, it produces an effect of calmness before the storm arrives. Is he one of film's best-loved villains? Very possibly.
To put it frankly, I am hugely surprised "Leon" did not gain any Oscar nominations of any kind. Yes, it would have been up against the likes of "The Shawshank Redemption", "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and eventual winner, "Forrest Gump" for Best Picture, but I do think it deserved to be there. Jean Reno would have been up against Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman and Paul Newman for Best Actor, but, again, I think he belonged in that list. Likewise did Natalie Portman for Best Supporting Actress. But enough of what could have been, IMDB members and their opinions are what count in my book. Is this a good film? No, it's not. It's an excellent film, beyond that of being labelled as 'good'.
The acting of Reno, Portman and Oldman is outstanding and the mood of the film is perfectly balanced. Portman said "Working with Gary Oldman was probably the easiest acting experience of my life. I don't think I had to act at all in that scene. I mean, it was really simple, because he really does what he does well. It's pretty amazing to get to see it that close, but it was also a gift to me."
If you rent (or buy) just one film this week, make it "Leon: The Professional".
Blu-Ray Extra Features
Theatrical and Extended versions - here you get a choice of the 110 minute original version and the extended, uncut version which lasts for 132 minutes.
10 Year Retrospective - interviews with the cast, and stories about the making of the film. However, input from Gary Oldman and Luc Besson is missing, which almost spoils it a little.
Jean Reno: The Road to Leon - an interview with Reno about acting career and "Leon" in particular.
Natalie Portman: Starting Young - on this feature you get interviews with the young actress, her audition tape, and talk about how her parents restricted the role.
Fact Track - this gives out a little trivia about the film.
Previews - basically advertisements for upcoming (at the time) Sony films.
What the Critics Say
Entertainment Weekly: "Ah, monsieur, you can lead a Frenchman to the Big Apple, but you can't make him a New Yorker -- and that's exactly what makes this film so fascinating."
Washington Post: "Oldman is the least inhibited actor of his generation, and as this deranged detective, he keeps absolutely nothing in reserve."
Austin Chronicle: "Besson's visuals are, as always, vibrant and decidedly European. He fills the frames with odd-angled shots and alarming riots of color that catch you off-balance."
Time: "This is a Cuisinart of a movie, mixing familiar yet disparate ingredients, making something odd, possibly distasteful, undeniably arresting out of them."
The Globe and Mail: "Takes its viewers on a bouncing high-wire act between intense violence and sugar-sweet tenderness, with some light-hearted comedy along the way."
My rating: 9/10
The story follows the life of a lonely hitman Leon( Luc Besson) who ends up being a teacher and becoming a father figure to Mathilda (Natalie Portman) a lonely girl her family has been killed and she is an orphan and she wishes to seek revenge on her families killers . The story is set in New York Mathilda is living with her family in a run down apartment block her mum is a prostitute and her father is a drug dealer and her sister and family are violent to her. Mathilda is only 12 but seems older by her corrupted youth and is seen smoking and acting provocative. A drug deal goes wrong for her father and her whole family is murdered luckily Mathilda was shopping at the time and goes back to the apartment sees her family dead and knocks on Leon her neighbours door begging to come in with some reluctance he lets her in and she falls in love with him she finds his guns and wants to learn how to become an assasin like Leon but he does not want to teach her he knows killing is no life for a child but she keeps begging him and he eventually gives in Leon teaches Mathilda how to hold a gun and shoot and tries to keep her safe but she wants to be like him and soon finds herself needing Leons help. Sadly things do not end well Leon is killed and Mathilda is heart broken her only love is dead the only person who cared for her luckily Leon had left some money but his boss will not give it to Mathilda as he says she is too young and should be in school Mathilda asks him for a job implying she wants to be a hitman like Leon but he refuses.Mathilda goes back to school and plants a tree in memory of Leon.
I would recommend this film it is very thrilling and scary it is similar to films like Pulp Fiction so if you are a fan of Tarentino films then this is for you however the film is very violent there is a lot of shooting and blood so it would not be suitable for everyone some parts of the film are a bit disturbing especially when Mathilda tells Leon she is in love with him but if you like the film Lolita this film would be your cup of tea. The acting in the film is very good Luc Besson is very believable and Gary Oldman makes a great baddy however the films ending is a bit sad and you are left wondering what will happen to Mathilda.
This movie was released in 1994 and stars Jean Reno as the leading character (the hitman) and also stars Gary Oldman as Stansfeild a corrupt DEA agent and a young Natalie Portman in her feature film debut.
Leon a stone cold killer and professional hit man is plodding along with his discrete,lonely and foul existence making no noise and keeping to himself and nurturing his plant which he calls his best friend. That is until he spots Mathilda a twelve year old girl who on there first meet is smoking a cigarette and sporting a black eye. Mathilda's abusive father and self absorbed mother have not noticed she has quit her school for troubled children and when her dad gets caught by the police for selling drugs, drug addict and dirty agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman) looses control during the raid and murders Mathilda's family one by one. Mathilda returns home and walks past her flat door realizing a raid is happening,she spots Leon who has been watching the raid go on and begs him to let her in and after thinking about it Leon makes a strained decision to let the crying girl in to his flat.
Mathilda now living with Leon soon realizes he is a cleaner,(hitman) and begs him to teach her the tricks of his trade which he does and in return Mathilda cleans the apartment,does the grocery shopping and even teaches the Hitman how to read. Taking a liking to Leon, Mathilda also tells him she loves him on a number of occasions to which she gets no response.
When Mathilda learns to shoot the first thing she does is get a bag of Leon's guns and goes after the dirty cop who has killed her family,blagging her way into the D.A office dressed as a delivery girl she is ambushed by stansfield in the bathroom where he tells her Leon has already killed the other cop she is after. Mathilda is saved from a dangerous situation when Leon after reading a note she had left goes and saves her killing two of Stansfields men in the process. Angry more of his men are dead Stansfield goes after Mathilda and Leon at there flat,in the battle that commences Leon and Stansfeild both die in a bomb blast as Mathilda escapes and goes to see Leon's boss who does his best to try and make Mathilda a hired Hitwomen not giving her the money Leon had given him to give her.
She runs back to her old school telling her story to a female teacher who takes pity and readmits her into the school,she walks out to a field nearby with Leons plant in hand and plants it the way she had told him he should,to give it roots.
This is an outstanding movie, and the main character is a simple hit man that survives through being in the background. However due to a bunch of bad cops slaughtering a family over drugs on the same landing as Leon, Leon then has to make a decision to save one of the children but by doing so he brings himself out of the darkness and into the limelight.
He knows that this will happen but he still does the right thing, there is an odd relationship between the saved child and Leon that slowly blossoms into a parental love. While this is coming to pass they are pursued by Gary Oldman and his bunch of crook policeman. Gary plays an excellent part as a leader of the Police gang who has gone way byond the normal legal boundaries and feels he is not answerable to anyone.
Leon has connections with the Mafia and there is some great comedy in part as he teaches the girl to become a hit "person". However this is not a "happily ever after" film and the bad guys get their come uppance and Leon pays for his "morally correct" decision. There are some excellent scenes of Police entering apartments and some quick thinking by the escapes which adds to the drama and increases the tension. A good movie that is well worth a watch and the opening scene tells you exactly what skills Leon has.
I had been told by several people how great this film and it very much sounded like the kind of thing I would enjoy was so decided I should find out for myself, but unfortunately it was a huge disappointment!
The story basically revolves around and assassin named 'Leon' who reluctantly befriends a young girl who lived down the corridor from him in their apartment block and has recently been orphaned. She is determined to avenge the ones responsible for murdering her family and Leon helps to train her up in her quest to accomplish this task.
I have no problem with the storyline and there were some good moments in the film, but I found the acting was simply dreadful most of the time. It was cheesy in parts, which didn't really suit the rest of the film and the poor acting made it utterly unbelievable for me. Because of this I just didn't buy into it and I was actually bored towards the end. The DVD case suggests that with 'sharp execution and cunning force' this film 'delivers exceptional drama and suspense right from the start'. This is absolutely not how I would describe this film, there are a couple of good scenes, one right at the start but other than that I would certainly not describe it as exceptional!
I had expected a great film and got a very average one.
Luc Besson has a reputation for big, showy films that come complete with amazing set pieces, stunning back drops and clever characterisation and yet Leon, one of his most memorable master-pieces, is far more subtle, constrained and, some might say, gentle despite its often disturbing and disquiet subject matter!
Leon is a "Cleaner", what we would call a Hitman, who keeps himself to himself and involves himself as little as possible in the lives of others. But somewhere in his hard and heavy heart he finds a place for Mathilda, a little girl who lives down the hall from him, when her family are all wiped out by corrupt DEA officials lead by the drug-addicted Gary Oldman who has more than a streak of the psychotic about him. Mathilda discovers what Leon does for a living and declares her intentions to learn his trade from him so that she can exact her revenge upon those who took away from her the only people she ever loved. In return, Mathilda teaches Leon to read and shows him the value of friendship. But she cannot forget her past and sooner rather than later, the lives of this mis-matched pair cross paths with Oldman once more...this time with tragic consequences!
This has all the hall-marking of a foreign language film but shot with a Hollywood budget and in American English. In terms of style and feel, it certainly doesn't much resemble your average Hollywood movie and this sets it apart from all the rest and marks it in a league of its own.
Many people have heard of this film. Many of those who have heard of it have never seen it. And that is a shame because this is a highly under-rated cult classic featuring a very young Natalie Portman in one of her most memorable roles!
I love this film and it remains one of my favourites of all time! This Director's Cut (which Besson refutes, calling this instead the Long Version!) adds another twenty minutes or so to the original running time and is well worth it as it builds on the blossoming relationship between Mathilda and Leon adding a whole new dimension to the film.
Available to buy now from as little as £4.49 on Amazon, there has never been a better time to revisit this timeless classic. It is one of Jean Reno's best roles, one of Miss Portman's finest movies and right up there in Gary Olmans back catalogue too! And if you have never seen this before......well, what's wrong with you goddamit!?!
I continue to think about this film, years after seeing it.
Leon (Jean Reno) is an unlikely action [hit]man. The film was renamed The Professional for a US release, so this review is for both.
The basis storyline is that Leon is a French hit man living in America. His best friend is a plant but instead of being an odd ball, he has strick rules he works by 'no children and no women'. Leon's life is ordered until the 12 year old daughter, Matila (played by a young Natlie Portman) pleas for his help in finding and killing those that murdered her family - right in earshot of Leon's apartment door.
We watch and concentrate on Leon and Matilda's relationship as the film develops. IT is this, plus Leon's brutal action scenes in defence of Matilda that make Luc Besson's film so memorable.
Gary Oldman stars as a corrupt cop and his and the other two named are superb throughout.
Not an easy film to classify with the Frech hero, but it appeals to women a dmen equally for the characters it offers.
Certainly in my top 10 all time favourite films.
After listening to my boyfriend rave about this film for some weeks now and hearing so many times how it's his favourite film - much to his delight, I finally sat down and watched it, not being 100% sure what to expect.
For the record Leon was renamed The Professional for US release, so if you go looking for this film in the US, you're looking for The Professional.
Leon (Jean Reno) is a French hit man living in America just trying to get by. He's a loner both by emotional choice and by the strains of his job. His best friend is a plant but you'd be mistaken if you thought he was unhinged. Leon might be a hit man but he has morals - no woman, no children.
Leon's life is pretty uncomplicated until his next door neighbours are murdered by corrupt police and their daughter, aged only 12 pleas for his help in finding and killing those that murdered her family.
Matilda (Natalie Portman) might only be 12, but she's been forced to live in a grown up world. Her father a drug lord, an abusive step mother and sister - she can almost be glad someone ridded her of them. But they killed her 4 year old brother who was completely innocent and that's what she isn't prepared to let go.
Together they embark on a journey to find the head of the corrupt police team, played by Gary Oldman and ... well do what hit men do. Besides, justice via the cops is out of the questions. Oldman plays this sick, twisted and not sane in the slightest cop really well. He's a menacing villain who knows he's in a good position - but is being in a good position to do what you want good enough to stop a 12 year old girl and a hit man?
Leon and Matilda's relationship is what really makes this movie with both Portman and Reno putting a lot of emotion and passion into their roles. It just adds to the amazing writing of Luc Besson.
Leon isn't a film you can place into a specific genre, because it just doesn't fit snuggly into any genre. It's quite a unique film and that's part of it's charm. There's definitely a lot of elements in it, that will keep you watching until the very end and them some - because you will want to watch it again (I did!).
Besides all that, the characters have real depth - which can't be fully grasped by watching this once. There's always a little more you want to know and something else you will spot the next time you watch it.
This is definitely one of the best films out there. I'm not sure if it's my favourite film of all time yet but it's definitely up there. It certainly doesn't get the attention or credit it deserves. Perhaps the hit man theme puts people off as it's not to everyones taste is that sort of thing, but that's really not the point of the story - so don't be put off at all.
Highly recommend you all watch this one, but it's a bit emotional sometimes so have a box of tissues and I'm not responsible for any crying, weeping or blubbering you might do or any economic crisis in your local shop relating to you buying all the tissues.
Review also on Ciao and my blog - http://aslifelikeas.wordpress.com
Luc Besson's classic film about a hitman called Léon (Jean Reno) and his long-suffering young neighbour Mathilda (Natalie Portman), whose entire family are wiped out whilst she went down to buy some milk in a DEA drug raid by the evil Stansfield (Gary Oldman).
It's a tale of morality and of corruption, of innocence and violence, as Léon struggles to decide wether to help Mathilda in her quest for revenge against the people who wronged her.
The director's cut here contrains an extra 26 minutes that was originally taken out of the film after it was originally screened to audience previews, and I personally feel the extra 26 minutes adds a lot of depth and character developement to the film.
It's an almost coming-of-age film where the characters bond and learn from each other, whilst at the same time an interesting look at the dynamics of such a clearly dysfunctional relationship at Léon decides to help Mathilda and train her to be an assassin.
It is graphically quite violent and brutal, but at the same time can be quite sweet and touching. It's stylistic and beautiful, fragile yet fierce, touching and yet bittersweet, and still just as enjoyable now as the day it was released. It's good fun and a film that should endure the test of time.
Leon was, and is, a thriller that sailed pretty close to the wind in terms of the relationship between its two main characters, played respectively by Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, in the role that catapulted her to stardom. And that is really how it should stay.
In the original cut of the film, the nature of the relationship between the two is left pretty much up to the imagination of the audience, and isn't allowed to slow down what is, in essence, an action thriller. Here, the nature of the relationship is dangled unceremoniously in your face and virtually nothing is left to the imagination.
I'm all for director's cuts in general - the extra minutes added to Aliens and Apocalypse Now added genuine depth to their stories. Here, the added depth is not at all welcome and turns a wonderful thriller, possibly one of the very best of the 1990s, into nothing more than an unnecessarily gratuitous melodrama.
Leon has always been one of my all time favourite films that i have watched many times throughout the years and having recently watched it again last night i felt compelled to share some of my opinions about it. There are very few films that i can keep coming back to and watch over and over again with this being one of them. I want to talk more specifically about the directors cut version as it was only a year or so ago i learnt about its existence and watched it. For Leon lovers i thought it was brilliant and very exciting to add over 20 minutes of extended footage to the film. For those who have yet to see the original i recommend you do so first before the directors cut as you may feel it drags on a bit.
What i love about the extended version is the further depiction of the complex relationship that develops between Leon (Jean Reno) and Matilda (Natalie Portman). Leon begins to train Matilda to be an assassin like him and together they form a partnership as they raid drug dealers homes together. It also gives far greater and in depth knowledge of how their relationship develops and how Leon tries to deal with his emotions. This extended version gives us a far greater insight into the chemistry of their relationship which above all i think is the main and most interesting theme of the film alongside Gary Oldmans character. For Leon lovers and film lovers in general this directors cut is a definite must see.
Luc Besson, a respected and probably the best French filmmaker has created this highly orchestrated and acted work that should become a classic and a cult.
Jean Reno is probably played the best role of his career. Gary Oldman certainly deserved Oscar nomination for this role. Natalie Portman has shown us how good an actress she is.
The story is not just an action, thriller and drama, but the combination of an innocent, sad girl who suffers from mascara of her family in cold blood from a hit man who never showed emotion towards anyone, let alone to find his way in a fatherly role. This movie will delight you with some brutal scenes, good action and a touching emotional moments.
This is Luc Bessons best directed movie ever, for me even better then The Fifth Element.
If you have not watched the movie yet, I think you're too cruel to yourself because this film provides an excellent entertainment with brilliantly staged action scenes and exciting moments.