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"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: This review has been heavily edited from its original form and probably looks pathetic, but feel free to rate me anyway so I can reach the goal I need and leave for good!
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 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 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.
My rating: 9/10
Luc Besson- Director of The 5th Element in his English speaking debut offers much violence and heart in the form of Leon. Jean Reno Plays a dead pan French hitman with a love for pot plants, milk and assassinating drug dealers in contract killings. Reno has worked with Besson before and was written the part especially by the director.
After the brutal murders of Leon's neighbours by bent, psycho DEA officer -Stansfield, Leon reluctantly admit spirited minor Natalie Portman who survived the attack where her family didn't. They form an unlikely bond and before long are performing operations together in order to help the 12 year old girl (Portman) through her loss with the unpromising deal that together she will have her revenge. In exchange for this the girl teaches Leon to read and provides company for the disconnected hitman.
The visuals are inventive and exciting with a quirky sense of humour throughout the film. This film isn't short of bullets and explosions as well as great performances by Gary Oldman as the dangerous Mozart loving DEA cop, who changes from calm to violent with a pop of the mysterious pills he uses. Reno also provides a knockout performance along with Portman who together create a unique relationship.
Also on Ciao.co.uk under username- Pippylong
French director Luc Besson makes the film Leon in his American directorial debut in this stylish thriller about an assassin Leon (Jean Reno) who develops a reluctant relationship with an orphaned 12-year-old girl Maltilda (Natalie Portman).
A 12 year old girl Matilda (Natalie Portman) has her whole family killed by corrupt and unhinged DEA official (Gary Oldman) after it is discovered that Matilda's father tried to hold out on a drug deal. Only Matilda, who was out shopping, survives by finding shelter in Leon's apartment in the moment of highest need. With her whole family murdered Matilda turns to Leon for help and he finds himself in the unique position of being responsible for the 12 year old girl. When Matilda finds out Leon is an assasin she asks him to train her so she can get her revenge on the man that murdered the little brother that she loved. A close bond soon develops between the them.
A combination of thrilling action and heartfelt emotion, Leon is a remarkably unique and engaging film. The film doesn't follow the path of your typical American action movie but instead it has more of a stylish European feel about it. The performances are absolutely superb all round. Natalie Portman in her debut performance shows maturity above and beyond her 12 years of age and Jean Reno is so believable and likable as the assasin. Gary Oldman plays the creepy disturbed DEA official to perfection and is just the pure essence of evil. The relationship between Leon and Matilda is heart warming and there is so much chemistry between Reno and Portman that it makes this film special. With an excellent script, a great story, perfect casting, good action, great cinematography, this film has all the ingredients to make it a perfect movie.
Leon is a 1994 action/drama written and directed by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman and Danny Aiello.
Leon (Reno) is a reclusive hitman working for Tony (Aiello) who only has a potted plant for company. He lives in the same apartment block as Mathilda (Portman), a 12 year old girl who lives with her abusive family. When her father rips off some drugs from a crooked DEA team led by Norman Stansfield (Oldman), it leads to bloody retribution and the whole of Mathilda's family is murdered. She seeks refuge with the reluctant Leon and soon discovers what he does for a living and offers to teach him to read and write in return for being trained as an assassin so that she can avenge her little brother, the only family member she cared about. She gradually makes Leon realise what it is like to have family and roots but the pair come onto Stansfield's radar and he threatens to ruin things for them. Can the resourceful Leon deal with the best the NYPD can throw it him?
Beginning with a stunning aerial sweep of New York city we're soon shown Leon's capabilities with a thrilling sequence where he takes on a drug dealer and his goons in their apartment. Besson manages to handle the action very well throughout and still find room for dramatic scenes. It helps that in the central duo he has two exceptional actors in Reno and Portman. Reno conveys the loneliness of Leon well, and there is a lovely scene where he is watching Singin' In The Rain with the look of childlike wonder. Reviewing this from the Blu Ray release I watched the director's cut which adds a number of scenes which mean both Leon and Mathilda lose some of their innocence - firstly in her accompanying him on his "jobs" and also because it ramps up the "lolita factor" which is only hinted at in the UK theatrical cut. His explanation for rejecting her advances is just bizarre! Personally, I don't think the additional scenes add anything significant to the film but then they don't really harm it either and so can't really recommend one version over the other. It's definitely worth watching the DC if only for curiositys sake.
Portman, for me, has never bettered her performance here as Mathilda, both strong willed and vunerable at the same time. She convinces in every scene she's in. Oldman is on OTT form here as the maniacal Stansfield, and it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief to accept that his superiors wouldn't question the methods he and his team use, but he provides a good boo-able villain. Aiello as Tony doesn't have a great deal to do so the performance is more functional than anything, although we get snaps of dialogue which show he has manipulated Leon to his own end for years and is a villain himself in a way.
The cinematography is great, showing the vast scale of NYC and the Blu Ray transfer does this justic. The editing also manages to remain coherent during what could be chaotic action scenes.
A great movie whichever version you watch, with some brilliant performances, providing you don't question the story too much.
Leon is not just an assassin; he's a loner and a perfectionist - and it is no coincidence that, when there's a "job" to be done in the Italian Quarter, he's the man they ask for. He lives a life of few possessions, flitting from one seedy apartment block to another with just the tools of his trade and his cherished pot-plant for company. Never settling, never mingling, keeping below the radar of both the establishment and the law, his only pleasure being the occasional cinema trip to see his idol, Gene Kelly.
Matilda is a school-girl who, thanks to her dysfunctional family, spends very little time at school. She lives with her father, her step-mother, her half-sister and her beloved baby brother just down the hall from Leon's latest haunt, and when her father gets mixed up in a drug deal that goes wrong, their paths cross and the strangest of relationships is born.
The story centres around Matilda's quest for revenge against a corrupt Drugs Enforcement Agency officer, Norman "Stan" Stansfield, and the bond she forms with Leon along the way. Reluctant at first, Leon accepts the girl into his lonely existence, not only learning to like her, but to love her. Of course, the film raises all sorts of ethical questions; not only on the subject of kids becoming killers, but also about the relationship between Leon and Matilda which is at best morally uncomfortable, and at worst, disturbing.
There are some interesting sub-plots and Leon's relationship with his one-time mentor, Big Tony - who is quite obviously ripping him off financially - gives glimpses of a heartbroken past that has made Leon the man he is now.
The story is extremely absorbing and the contrast between the super-cool Leon (played by Jean Reno) and the psychotic Stan (Gary Oldman) leaves the viewer in no doubt where the boundary between good and bad lies - despite the fact that the good-guy is a paid killer. Natalie Portman's performance as the young Matilda is superb for her first feature-film and betrays an acting ability far beyond her years.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Leon is a classic action film and one of the very best and most exciting films of the 1990s. It also shot Luc Besson to fame and made him the proponent of the "Cinema du Look" movement, which was a reaction to what he felt was the pretentious and needlessly intellectual cinema that followed the French New Wave of the 1960s.
Léon (Jean Reno) is a hitman who is absolutely flawless when at work - he is like a ghost and never gets caught. However, he's also not so bright, and so has a man that helps him manage his money, Tony (Danny Aiello). He meets Mathilda Lando (Natalie Portman), who lives in a disfunctional family home with her deadbeat parents and innocent younger brother. One day, though, her father (Michael Badalucco) gets into trouble with some corrupt DEA agents, particularly the psychopathic drug-addict Norman "Stan" Stansfield (Gary Oldman), who murders all of them except for Mathilda, who was out at the time. She seeks refuge with Leon in a frenzy, and soon enough learns that he's an assassin, and wants him to train her up. At first he refuses, but then realises that she can be a valuable asset on his missions, although it doesn't come with putting her in some danger, obviously.
This is a superb action film that's wonderfully mounted and has exhilarating action scenes and superb characterisation. It's also quite touching unexpectedly, and Besson's direction is without a doubt the best that it's ever been.
Leon is a truly unique cinematic experience in utilising cinema du look techniques, combining attributes indicative of the French New Wave with Hollywood-style items. Besson is a true auteur in this sense and crafts a wonderful film that is visually lush, thematically rich, and action-packed. The relationship between Leon and Mathilda is truly astounding on many levels, and Gary Oldman's performance is superb. A true classic.
Leon is a 1994 crime/drama directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Nikita) starring Gary Oldman, Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. It follows the story of a 12-year-old girl named Mathilda (Portman) whose family is murdered at the hands of a drug-addicted, corrupt DEA Agent (Oldman) due to a cocaine problem. Mathilda seeks refuge from the DEA agents by knocking on the door of Leon (Reno) a solitary professional "Cleaner" (Hitman) who lives next door.
Leon has many pros and many cons (I suggest watching the original version rather than the Director's Cut - which is the only version I've seen). I'll start on a positive note - the story is riveting and the performances of the three main characters are fantastic. Oldman is very good at playing the sadistic bastard agent. Portman is fantastic as the vulnerable-yet-vengeful pre-teenager and Reno excels at playing the solitary, often humourless but loving hitman.
Leon has some superb action sequences and the tension is consistent and engaging. The opening sequence completely hooks you, but after that I find it to get a little bit bland. The characters are (most of the time) emotionally involving and inspire empathy (with the exception of the DEA agents), but some of these emotional moments are spoiled with unnecesary dialogue.
The cinematography is fantastic. Besson never fails on that front - all his films are pretty or well-dressed. But sometimes I feel that Besson chooses style over substance. Although it's a powerful story, it at times becomes too cheesey. I'm not sure if this scene is in the original or not, but there is quite a longwinded scene in which Leon and Mathilda play charades (an attempt at comic relief?) and it becomes cringeworthy.
Overall, Leon's a good story and it's worth a watch, but at times it becomes a bit slow (but that may be the Director's cut).
Leon is an extraordinary showcase of character study in film. Lead by Natalie Portman and Jean Reno, the film explores the life of a dedicated hitman and a young girl with an unstable home life. After losing her entire family, Leon reluctantly takes Mathilda in and questionably teachers her the foundations of being a "cleaner" (assassin).
I've read countless reviews on IMDB claiming Reno to have perfected his role but I can't say I was overly impressed. His thick accent helped and his reclusive manner was believable but after nearly two hours he didn't seem like a complete character. Maybe that's what Luc Besson was aiming for...
Portman gave a more than admirable performance, especially at the age of fourteen. Naive yet sincere. Gary Oldman was as realistic and gritty as you could have hoped for, portraying the psychotic corrupt cop.
However... and this is a big however... as much as I enjoyed the characters individually and the intriguing plot, I couldn't help but feel estranged by a 12 year old being trained to become an assassin. Besson didn't really cover the emotional and psychological effects on Mathilda. The relationship between her and Leon was also a little edgy to say the least. When people start using the word "romance" describing a 12 year old and a hitman three or four times her age, it starts to become a grey area. I can't help but remember the scene where Mathilda starts saying she wants her first time to be special and with Leon, which was bizarre enough, but Leon responds a little less surprised for my liking.
To me, Leon is an overrated film. Mediocre action scenes (granted it's 15 years old now) and controversial themes created a less enjoyable thriller than I expected but partially saved by memorable performances and refreshing originality.
Leon (also known as The Professional) is a story of a hit man who becomes the guardian and friend of a child called Mathilda.
Jean Reno plays the New York based professional contract killer Leon, who works for a mobster only referred to as "Big Tony" played by Danny Aiello. At the start of the film we see Leon performing a contract from the view point of the mobsters. This is a great scene which really sets the film up well for what is to come. Leon comes across as a totally cold blooded almost supernaturally good killer.
In the same apartment block that Leon lives in a 12-year-old Mathilda played by a very young Natalie Portman, along with her questionable family. When the corrupt cop Stansfield shows up played by Gary Oldman shows up things go from bad to worse for Mathilda's family. Her father who is a drug dealer attempts to cheat Stansfield and ends up being brutally murdered along with the rest of his family. Mathilda escapes this fate and seeks refuge with Leon.
At first being a cold blooded contract killer he is reluctant to take her in but in the end agrees to. As the film progresses they warm to one another and Leon's life begins to change. Mathilda is trained to be a "cleaner" by Leon as she wants revenge for her fallen brother and in turn she looks after Leon, cleaning and buying the groceries. Eventually Mathilda attempts to take revenge on her own with one of Leon's pistols. The life they had learnt to enjoy quickly crumbles around them and Leon is forced to fix the situation the only way he knows how.
The actors in Leon all do an amazing job, Jean Reno is brilliant in the role of Leon, playing the simple minded emotionless killing machine, who when given something to care for starts to suffer in his work. Gary Oldman while over the top makes for an amazing villain, evil and corrupt to the core, even willing to kill children to get what he desires.
Danny Aiello as "Big Tony" and the other supporting actors in the film also do a great job in their roles; however the most surprising acting in the film comes from Natalie Portman in her second ever acting role. She carries off the role amazingly and her performance is probably one of the best a child actress/actor has ever done.
The cinematography is stylish and thrilling with large and sometimes darkly humorous action set pieces. Every shot in the film is highly considered and masterly done. The tracking shots of the streets in New York City throughout the film are beautiful.
The script is phenomenal and probably now would not be made, as there is no doubt that Matilda loves Leon and wants him to be far more than a mere bodyguard. This is shown even more obviously in the extended cut but it is never portrayed as vulgar or morally indecent. It is simply a childish fantasy of a troubled girl, who has fallen for her savior.
Some people criticize the film for a lack in Leon's characterization. The audience is meant to find Leon appealing because he is simple and looks after Mathilda and yet his character never really becomes warm. I can see how people view Leon and Mathilda's relation ship as forced but the point is that Leon is a cold-blooded dysfunctional person who kills people for money. A man like Leon would not simply become "human" and adapt to be like everyone else. He is a man of the underworld from the darker depths of society that was not meant to fit in.
It is also a shame that the main film was cut by twenty mints as every scene that was cut only adds more depth to the film. It is obvious why they were cut as they make Leon and Mathilda's intimacy more questionable. In one scene there is a montage in which Leon takes Mathilda on a series of contract killings and another in which Mathilda dresses up and asks Leon to "be her first" aka. Have sex with her. So the removal of these scenes is acceptable, but disappointing.
Leon was Besson's first American production and has a very European feel about it. Reno is amazingly cast as Leon and Oldman makes a great unhinged villain, but it is Portman who really takes the film away. She ranges from sympathetic victim to a cold blooded killer just like her guardian throughout the film. Leon is without a doubt a phenomenal film and arguably one of the best commercial films to ever hit the screen.
I watched this film after having put it on my lovefilm list quite a while ago (I think after seeing it in a list of best films or the like). I knew it was about an assassin but knew very little else and wow I was very surprised to find this film to be the best film I have watched in quite some time.
The story of this film centers around two characters. The main character is an assassin named Leon (Jean Reno) and the second character is a very young Natalie Portman who gets adopted by Leon. Part of the film is Leon teaching this girl how to be an assassin, whilst the other part explores their individual characters and the relationships they have between each other.
For me, there were several things that made this film as good as it was. I found the film quite quirky which is something I like in a film. Leon was very uncharismatic, living in a tiny, scruffy apartment and not really having actually much power. This makes for a very interesting character to explore.
The explorations into the relationship between the two are in depth and very touching at points. Aside from this however there is also a fair amount of action which is a means to prevent your eyes ever straying from the screen.
The film is fantastic in all ways and I cannot see how someone could not like this since it will please people who are looking for pretty much anything in a film. The cast is fantastic and provide moments ranging from bizarre humour to full out action. Do not miss out on this stunning film.
Released in 1995 Léon is one of those films that somehow slipped under the radar the first time. It is one of my all time favourite movies. The cast isn't big which is great because it gives most screen time on the stars. They are perfect in their roles, Jean Reno as 'Léon', Gary Oldman as 'Stansfield', and Natalie Portman as 'Mathilda'.
I think the actors were perfect in their roles and chosen well. The movie gave them enough screen time for you to see them develop their personalities. They also improvised which saw some unique qualities being brought to us.
The plot revolves around a professional assassin, a drug deal, revenge, and corrupt cops. Without ruining the story I'll just talk about a few of things I liked about the DVD. First of all the characters, you feel for them all and want to see how it ends. It is an action film without being an action film in the usual tradition. There is a lot of drama and even a touch of romance.
Even though the movie is over one and a half hours you will be surprised at how quickly it ends, 'time flies when you are having fun' springs to mind.
The weapons that get used are fantastic, the story is well developed, the filming is paced just how it should be. Well worth watching and owning. Simply superb with no faults.
5 out of 5.
Leon's plotline could probably be sued under the Trades Description Act. Its hitman character probably pulls people in the hope of lots of Hollywood style violence, murder and mayhem. What they probably don't expect to find is a touching tale encompassing a rather unconventional love story. Despite this potential mis-match between expectation and end-product, Leon is far more rewarding than any generic Hollywood thriller could ever have been.
The plot sees Leon suddenly acquiring responsibility for a 12 year old girl who wants to avenger her murdered family. Through the course of their relationship, Leon teaches her to be a hitman; she teaches him how to live.
It's the development of this relationship which is the real focus of Leon and which gives the film a surprising amount of emotional depth. Both Leon and Mathilda are very needy characters in their own way and become mutually dependent on the other. Mathilda slowly works out her grief and anger and starts to be happy again, whilst Leon suddenly discovers that life is not quite so lonely, now that he has "a family". It's a heart-warming affair which stays just the right side of sentimental, due to a combination of strong writing and superb acting.
Chief amongst the actors is Jean Reno, perfect as Leon - an emotionally stunted, friendless loner who isolates himself because of his job. This is easily Reno's best role in a US film. Although playing a cold-blooded killer, he makes Leon a very human, likeable and sympathetic person. Away from his job, he is simply a lonely lost little boy, trapped in the body of a man. It's hard not to feel very sorry for him and you can entirely understand Mathilda's attraction. Reno plays Leon as a slightly backward, extremely naive man-child. It's a subtle performance which gets across Leon's own (skewed) sense of morality without hammering it home. Reno also handles the switch to hitman convincingly, switching to cold and professional in the blink of an eye, whilst still retaining Leon's spark of humanity.
He is backed up by Portman in her first major screen role and she's pretty good. Convincing as both the wide-eyed innocent and the worldly-wise child, she proves more than capable of matching Reno's performance in terms of both charm and anger.
Surprisingly, the real let down is Gary Oldman, as Stansfield - the man responsible for the murder of Mathilda's parents. He overplays the character, casting him as a pantomime villain, full of strange quirks, tics and facial expressions. True, there is a reason for his eccentric and unpredictable behaviour, but it's still over-the-top and sits uncomfortably with the more restrained and powerful performances from Reno and Portman.
What really makes the film, though, is the growing relationship between Leon and Mathilda. There is a real chemistry between them, and it is intelligently and convincingly handled. There is something potentially creepy about a relationship between a 40 year old man and a 12 year old girl. Yet whilst these aspects are addressed, they are sensitively handled, and don't become the subject of prurient interest. His child-like demeanour and her worldly-wise persona lead to a switching of roles at times, where she becomes the adult and he the innocent child; yet each enriches the life of the other. It's a touching, heart-warming relationship, laced black humour and a genuine sense of fun. Despite its subject matter, this isn't about killing; it's about companionship and second chances.
Of course, the downside to this is that some people will watch it expecting a kill-fest and be disappointed. The opening and closing sequences aside, there is not much in the way of action or gunplay. There are some good action sequences, although these won't be enough to satisfy action-fiends. The opening sequence is excellent, immediately establishing both what Leon does and how scarily good he is, whilst the final sequence offers some spectacle, without every being too unrealistic. Despite this, some people will still find it rather lacking in action and too slow-paced.
Ironically, others will object to the level of violence in the film. Although it's not a blood bath, there are plenty of deaths and gunshot injuries and a couple of sequences which some may find disturbing. Human life is shown as cheap and easily extinguished and characters show no compunction about killing when necessary. If you find that offensive, then you could find your enjoyment severely curtailed. In these days of the excesses of the Saw or Hostel series, however, Leon looks pretty tame.
Leon is one of those quirky little films that Hollywood does seem able to churn out from time to time (although it was written and directed by a Frenchman). Heart-warming and enriching, it's a surprisingly emotional and rewarding watch. Even when you know exactly what happens, it's still one you'll be tempted to put into your DVD player every so often as an antidote to overblown action films or buddy-buddy cop movies.
Director: Luc Besson
Running time: approx. 110 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2009
Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Patrice Ledoux
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello
This French directed action/drama movie was released toward the end of 1994 and was a simple tale of a quiet man who happened upon the wrong place at the wrong time.
Leon, (played by Jean Reno) is a mild mannered French man living in New York City's 'little Italy'. Unbeknown to all around him he is secretly a professional hit man, (or cleaner) working for the local Mafia boss Tony, (played by Danny Aiello), who uses a 'Macaroni' retail store to front his small empire.
Leon has only one friend, which happens to be a houseplant, until he inadvertently opens his door one day and his peaceful existence changes forever.
One of his neighbours, a twelve year girl called Mathilda, (played by Natalie Portman) shows cause for concern when her father is involved with some corrupt DEA agents led by Norman Stansfield, (played by Gary Oldman), and she unintentionally
turns to the French recluse for help.
With Leon taking Mathilda under his wing, protecting her from the twisted Norman, she offers to teach the 'illiterate' French man to read and write but in return he must train her to became a 'cleaner' so she can avenge the death of her brother.
The movie then goes through the detailed motions of how Leon 'trains' Mathilda in the art of assassination, from long range sniper to close combat silent killing, for which Leon specialises in.
But, Leon's abilities are tested as he realises his mind is not fully on his 'job' as he now has someone else to think about besides himself
Before too long Mathilda is trying to take her revenge on Norman and his corrupt gang, causing the film to come to a brilliant and dramatic climate involving a showdown and a very clever escape plan.
A brilliant movie with a good story line and some good acting.
Jean Reno plays the part of Leon to perfection with his rough looking exterior and his pleasant French accent. His mannerism in the movie really gives him that calm yet destructive attitude, almost like an eagle waiting and watching its prey prior to attack.
As for ,Natalie Portman's as Mathilda, well, she seemed to revel in the role as the mild mannered girl seeking revenge. If this was her first major role in a movie then this girl has a lot of talent and oozes confidence.
The film does tend to run a little slow but is easy to keep up with and there is always some form of action waiting around the next corner, albeit slight.
When the movie hits it's peak and the real action starts then prepare for some excellent entertainment as you watch the amazing skills which have made Leon the top assassin he is. Watch how he infiltrates a highly trained organisation to inflict some serious damage and disappears into nowhere and how he avoids getting caught when it looks like his time is up....pure brilliance.
There are what can be only described as emotional scenes as we see the characteristic of the once solitary assassin change when he sees the true pain that a little girl is feeling.
Then with a slight twist this movie finishes with a bit of emotion.
It may have a bit of violence and its fair share of blood shed but it does seem necessary for the movie to work
Would I recommend this movie..?
Yes I would.
It is a great movie with everything a good movie needs, action, adventure, tears, hate, smiles and more......
Leon is quite simply one of the greatest films ever made (up there with The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects etc), a great example of how great cinema can be when everything works out well - great acting, great cinematography, great story. However the theatrical release was somewhat flawed by having 24 minutes cut in most theatrical runs of the film (of which will be discussed in more detailed later), changing parts of the plot and reducing character development.
The story centers around a young girl Matilda who's family is murdered near the start of the film by (somewhat corrupt) cops in a drug bust, and how she befriends and is adopted by a professional hitman named Leon, often referred to as a 'cleaner'. As the film progressives, Leon teaches his trade to Matilda, they even start doing jobs together. Their relationship develops, with Matilda hell bent on getting revenge on those who killed her family. The film ends in a wonderfully bleak but fulfilling manner, a true masterpiece in cinematography and character development.
The acting in the film is really what turns this film from being a good action film into something truly exceptional. All three principle characters (Natalie Portman as Matilda, Jean Reno as Leon and Gary Oldman as Stansfield - the corrupt cop) providing very memorable characters. The simple minded (but not stupid) character of Leon could have been a joke with the wrong actor - he 'cleans' and tends for his plant and drinks glasses of milk, mostly keeps to himself. Mentally he is at a similar level to Matilda. Instead he is a very believable character who struggles, but still manages to stay on top. most of the situations Matilda puts forward. Natalie Portman does an excellent job at portraying a girl forced to grow up a lot quicker than most of us. She is smart, manipulative, vengeful, often cold but still emotionally immature and vulnerable in some ways. Natalie nails all these factors without ever coming a cross as 'cute' or out of her depth as child actors often can taking more 'mature' and complex roles. The interaction between these two is truly remarkable, how Matilda tries to manipulate him, how he starts to care for her like a father would, their disagreements and so on. Like the Fifth Element (also directed by Luc Besson), Gary Oldmen manages to steal every scene with his funny but also disturbingly insane character. While shooting people he's remarking on the brilliance of Beethoven, an excellent 'villain' for the film. Of course the term 'villain' is very grey since all the characters have a dark side to them.
The directors cut (also known as the international version of the film) is the superior cut, though certain scenes are rather controversial (such as those involving Matilda's sexual prowess). Ultra conservatives may be offended (such as those who attended the US test screenings that led to these scenes being cut in theatrical release), but for anyone else they add great depth to her character and to the film as a whole. Their relationship creates a lot of questions that are difficult to answer in terms of right and wrong simply, despite the idea of a 12 year old and a grown man being in love being perverted idea generally. But in this case it is Matilda doing the manipulating, with Leon pushing away any sexual advances from her, more loving her in a father figure sense. In watching the film it proposes questions such as "how do we react to children who grow up quick, much faster than we'd like to" or "are personal type relationships acceptable between children and older people in a non family sense, and if so how personal". This film gives a good study to ponder questions such as these and more, without being preachy and trying to tell the viewer the answers.
While many of the added scenes in the directors cut are not essential to story progression they all add depth to the film. In particular the 'training' scenes added are great where Leon teaches Matilda how to be a 'cleaner'. Overall the entire feel of the film changes from the more action oriented theatrical release to a character driven drama that starts and ends with action in the directors cut.
The film score generally complements the film well though has a somewhat '80's music' theme in a lot of parts (somewhat electronic style music), it suits the film though, though perhaps might be a tiny bit detracting for some. There is little in the way of big epic orchestral scores which is refreshingly different.
The DVD comes in a lot of different editions around the world, some containing the directors cut, others not. The region 2 UK edition is not the directors cut so avoid it altogether, as is the Aussie R4 edition. The region 1 editions all have picture quality issues (see below) so avoid them if possible. I've read that the Asian editions are better in this regard, but can't confirm this. The German 2 disc edition being reviewed comes in an entirely different custom packaging to the other editions. A metal style case that holds the dvds is very stylish and also comes with a booklet which unfortunately is all in German so is not much use. Pictures inside it are nice at least. see below for a picture of it:
In terms Picture quality the edition reviewed (German R2 directors cut) is acceptable but a little disappointing, and likely the best available out of all the releases. The main problem is edge enhancement which can get distracting. edge enhancement belongs on old vhs tapes, not dvd. Its also lacking in detail with walls and such looking smoothed over, likely due to excessive noise reduction applied. The said noise reduction also introduces occasional 'bobbing' of parts of the picture. A couple of times the bobbing is quite distracting, such as when Matilda is lying on the bed (around 58:37). Also its a bit of nitpicking but the dvd has the film framed with black borders on all 4 sides, which is generally bad practice (best practice is only 2 borders top and bottom with no borders left and right). So those with LCD / Plasma tvs and PC users may have to use overscan adjustment to avoid small black borders on the sides. Otherwise its not too bad, color is reasonable, no aliasing, and thankfully is an entirely progressive transfer unlike the infamous 'superbit' (superbit is meant to have the best video quality possible, but clearly not in the case of Leon) region 1 and a couple of other region 1 releases that has around 30 minutes of interlaced video (see link below).
If some of these terms about picture quality confuse you then have a look at the excellent reference on dvd/video artifacts from Michaeldvd (link below). Its good reading anyone who demands high quality video in their dvds (and conversely wondering why this isn't always the case in some dvds). dvdbeaver also has a good reference suggesting some 'rules' needed to make a good quality dvd.
Audio quality is more in line with what this film deserves, with a great 5.1 soundtrack. The german edition had a german 5.1 AC3 track, along with english 5.1 AC3 and DTS tracks. The AC3 and DTS tracks are more or less identical. Dialogue is clear and in sync with no distortions or other problems. Action scenes sound great with wonderful explosions and gunshots, with a appropriate subwoofer use and good use of surrounds. A great example of the excellent sound design is around 7:30 where a guy is franticly moving around and tries to call the cops. The musical scores builds up along with a 'heartbeat' style beat with his rapid breathing, and then cuts out suddenly at the pivotal moment. Fantastic stuff.
Extras wise the 2 disc edition has some good extras totaling a little over 50 minutes. However there are no dedicated 'making of' documentaries, no audio commentary, so its far from comprehensive which will disappoint dvd extras buffs. the extras included are (all in English, with removable German subtitles):
Leon - A Ten Year Retrospective: This ~25 minute extra interviews actors and director, and others involved in the film, who give interesting tidbits about the movie and choices they made in filming it. Virtually no 'making of' footage however. Despite being a 'restrospective', there isn't anything on the publics reaction/reception of the film unfortunately, and really doesn't get into enough detail about the film.
Jean Reno - The Road To Leon: This extra interviews Jean Reno about his role as Leon in the film, how he was cast for it, and approach to certain key scenes in the film. Interesting
Natalie Portman - Starting Young: An interesting 14 minute look at Natalie Portman's role as Matilda in the film, including interviews, script reading footage, and again approach to certain key scenes in the film. This is very similar in style to the Jean Reno extra, and quite interesting.
A few more useless extras are 9 movie trailers with German audio (no English audio), and filmographies, actor profiles. The three main extras are present in all of the other special edition releases of the film.
Acting / character development: 10/10
Musical score: 9/10
DVD Picture Quality: 7/10
DVD Audio Quality: 9/10
DVD Extras: 7/10
leon is about an immigrant hitman called leon [john reno] who lives in new york and is working for a mob boss, and matilda a 12 year old [natalie portman] and a bent cop stansfield [gary oldman]
matildas father is a drug dealer who lives in the same apartment as leon and leon occasionly talks to her one day whilst matilda is out her famly is murdered by stansfield when she sees her family dead matilda goes to leons apartment for comfort, and he takes her under his wing and begins to show her the ways of a hitman so she can get her revenge, but all goes wrong when she is captured by the bent cop
so its upto leon to come and save her
Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) made his American directorial debut with Leon, a stylised thriller about a French hit man (Jean Reno) who takes in an American girl (Natalie Portman) being pursued by a corrupt killer cop (Gary Oldman). Oldman is a little more unhinged than he should be, but there is something genuinely irresistible about the story line and the relationship between Reno and Portman. Rather than cave in to the cookie-cutter look and feel of American action pictures, Besson brings a bit of his glossy style from French hits La Femme Nikita and Subway to the production of The Professional, and the results are refreshing even if the bullets and explosions are awfully familiar.--Tom Keogh