When you need someone Cleaned... call a Pro!
Léon, AKA: The Professional was all its trailer promised it to be and it did one hell of a job living up to the action packed Hitman tales of the best of them out there. In no small part is this due to the acting. In no small part is this due to the music. In no small part was this due to the very different quirkiness that feels so different from most American films. In large part the credit belongs to Writer/ Director/ Co-Producer Luc Besson, the French Auteur who brought us La Femme Nikita and (later) The Fifth Element.
Jean Reno is Leon, a very professional hit man, or "Cleaner", who can't be beaten, even when put up against armies of body guards. He may not be the most social fellow on the planet (he can't even read), but he loves classic musicals and high-powered guns... and he's the very best at what he does. Danny Aiello is Tony, Leon's handler who sends Leon up against said armies. While Leon may be the silent partner (Tony even holds all his money for him), virtual shut-in Tony himself never leaves his Italian Restaurant.
Just down the hall from Leon lives... destiny. In the form of Natalie Portman's Mathilda. Mathilda is the precocious twelve year old neighbor, at once abused and neglected by her whole family (who seems not to notice that she's dropped out of school). Mathilda's very bad dad is involved in very bad things with very bad people and the fallout is going to be very bad. Gary Oldman is Agent Stansfield, an ironically drug-addled Drug Enforcement Agency thug whose strike team makes the Detectives from The Shield look like the New Kids on the Block.
When Stansfield's goons (none of whom are named "Lisa") collide with Mathila's family, Mathilda floats into Leon's arms on a surf of blood. The solitary and dejected Leon is hardly prepared to care for and comfort a young, traumatized girl, but having opened the door, he does what he can.
And so begins the ride.
One interesting angle that The Professional has to offer is the strange dichotomy of Leon and Mathilda. This isn't exactly Lone Wolf and Cub, but rather, this is more of a smart kid with a troubled past and an inventive fantasy life following around a good man doing bad things for a living. He's alone, she's alone. He accepts the role of "Father Figure" albeit grudgingly, she... well, wants something more.
The pressure Mathilda puts on Leon to train her to become a "cleaner" (ostensibly to take revenge on Stanfield's Z-Men, but at least equally out of hero worship) is soon replaced by a schoolgirl crush turned "falling in love". The thing is that Leon, while not exactly an altar boy himself, has scruples ("There are Rules!" he says) and he does his best to love her without... loving her. This is even when he's as shaken as that old man in that book by Nabokov.
Of course, this is made plausible by the ingénue performance by Natalie Portman. It's hard not to feel a little funny (and a lot guilty) watching some of her expressions. Luc Besson does intentionally blur the line there (and even more so in the European "Version intégrale"), but this is no Lolita.
It's no typical action flick either as Besson salts and peppers this little film with a little comedy and a lot of heart. This makes the action scenes all the more rip-roaring and the social comic moments that much more humorous.
A brief mention of Eric Serra's diverse score is in order. Equal parts Beethoven, Goldsmith and Morricone, Serra's score ranges from the orchestral to the gritty gangster flicks of the mob genre to the accordion-heavy French Downtown leisurely reflection. Every step is enhanced by Serra's measures.
Be warned that this is a very European film with a gritty, yet intelligent feel to it most unlike the typical Cineplex "Guy Film". It would have to be to get away with what it does (by aaron pruitt). While not perfect, it's always entertaining and always intelligent. It's hard to get much more European than this, really, with a French Director, Writer and Producer on a film that stars a Spanish born French actor playing (according to the script) an Italian. The only real surprise is that during all this, the language spoken is English.
Yes, Yes, how 'bout a hand for one of my all time favorite Action Flicks. How about Four Stars out of Five too? Léon the Professional is a rare film with a great cast, great acting and an incredible payoff (dig that ending). It's also slightly inconsistent in the occasional place and downright implausible in just a "MacGuffin" or two. Don't let that bother you! Use your brain and take The Professional in the stride it's intended. Then follow up with La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. You'd better check the ID of your date first, though, or else! I'll see you in the next reel, but until then, don't stand, don't stand so, don't stand so close to me.
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|