Newest Review: ... has worked with Besson before and was written the part especially by the director. After the brutal murders of Leon's neighbours by be... more
Member Name: ultras67
Date: 22/10/01, updated on 22/10/01 (53 review reads)
Advantages: Great Performances, European Style
Having seen Hollywood body-snatch Nikita and remake it into bland a Bridget Fonda movie ( Assassin ), Luc Besson has hit a preemptive strike on Hollywood by making this thriller by shooting it in New York and in English.
Taking his star, the hulking but sad-eyed Jean Reno, and discovering a hot new talent, Besson has managed to blend the best of continental style and story with American glitz and bang and make a superb movie.
As in Nikita, Reno is cast as a hit man (cleaner) who murders with automoton efficiency. But, when not slaughtering folks, Leon watches Gene Kelly movies, a rare innocent smile plastered over his face in the dark cinema. Keeps fit with quarts of milk and non-stop sit-ups and lives with his only friend, a potted plant.
Next door lives Mathilde. (Portman), a grumpy 12-year-old with a Louise Brooks haircut, who comes to him for shelter when her entire family are murdered by crooked psycho Drug Enforcement Agent Stansfield (Oldman) because the father ripped him off. Though reluctant to get involved, Leon takes the girl in and she offers to become his apprentice if he will avenge the killing of her brother.
The girl awakens longings in the almost child-like killer, persuading him that having a home isn’t such a bad thing and that even his plant deserves to put down roots. Her Lolita-ish pouting and habit of hiking her top over her bellybutton awakens thoughts of a less wholesome nature in the viewer but not in Leon who is too na´ve in matters of the heart and whose pure love of her and of life gradually blossoms. By cutting the sentiment with an undercurrent of challenging perversion, Besson gets away with a hokeyness that would stick in your craw in a Hollywood movie.
The finale switches into overdrive as the manic Stansfield, impressed by skirmishes with Leon, goes after him with enough firepower to take out Godzilla. “Bring everyone” he yells “What do you mean everyone”
; a minion asks “ I mean everyone !” is his response. Leon rises to the occasion and carries out a sequence of devastation and heroic self-sacrifice that should put Besson on the A-list with James Cameron and John McTiernan. While True Lies and Last Action Hero fumbled the juggling of action, heart interest, self-aware comedy and body count, Leon is a marvellous mix of great night out entertainment with arthouse intellect.
Pervy and powerful in equal measure, Leon delivers bangs and brains.
As far as extras for the DVD go, well there aren’t any really, which is a real shame. The sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital with a 2.35:1. aspect ratio. The transfer is quite good although a couple of scenes have a slight flicker but the dialogue and effects are clear and crisp.