Number 27 on the top 1000 films of all time is Luc Besson’s 1994: ‘Leon: the Professional.’
Leon (Jean Reno) is a French hit-man or “cleaner” who lives in a New York apartment. His neighbour is a 12 year old girl (Natalie Portman in her breakout role) called Matilda. Matilda is the daughter of abusive and neglectful parents and when a drug deal goes bad between Matilda’s father and a rogue DEA agent: Norman Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman) Stansfield kills Matilda’s parents. Whilst this doesn’t particularly bother her, Stansfield also kills her little brother. After this Leon takes Matilda in and reluctantly trains her to be an assassin in order to exact her revenge of Stansfield.
There’s no denying that this is an odd film. A 45 year old man takes in a 12 year girl and trains her to be an assassin. To make things odder, the two then begin to have romantic feelings for each other. Despite the strangeness, the film works. At heart, the narrative is a simple revenge story, mixed in with a love story. These two contrasting themes are what made the film interesting for me.
The odd narrative and combination of these two genres made the film original and different. The acting was good all around. Jean Reno as Leon was great. Reno just has one of those faces that look familiar. Gary Oldman was also brilliant as the villainous DEA agent, Norman Stansfield. Not only was he completely psychotic, but he was in complete denial of his evilness, which made him scarier. Natalie Portman was also very interesting as Matilda. She is confident in her own abilities and very convincing throughout the film.
Despite the strange narrative, the film is believable for the majority of the time. However, there are a few occasions, where it does push the suspension of disbelief a little too far. Firstly, upon hearing Matilda’s request for Leon to train her to be an assassin, he dismisses her as a child not capable of killing anyone. Matilda responds by snatching up his gun and firing many times out of his apartment window. The fact that this doesn’t attract police attention or any attention at all is too unrealistic to believe.
Secondly, when training Matilda, Leon takes on a number of hits, one of which involves using a grenade to gain access to one of the victim’s apartments. Again, I found it too unrealistic that this didn’t attract any attention. I was also quite disappointed that Matilda never kills anyone in the film. Whilst it was certainly romantic for Leon to sacrifice his life to kill Stansfield, I felt it would have been more poetical and appropriate for Matilda to have performed the hit.
Strong acting coupled with an odd but interesting narrative made this film good, but too many logical inconsistencies stopped it from being awesome.