Léon: The Professional ★★★★½

Included In Lists:
Strong Performances - Natalie Portman

Review In A Nutshell:

Leon follows the relationship of a 12 year old girl and a hitman that was formed after the girl's family was massacred by corrupt drug enforcers.

Before coming into this film, I didn't know how deep Besson would go in exploring their relationship. I came in preparing that this would be a basic action-thriller that contains a human story in order to avoid seeming shallow. The film surprised me with its touching and unorthodox story. It never reaches to a point of feeling creepy or even unsympathetic as what Mathilda, the young girl, has went through was truly tragic and Besson understood how much this has affected her. The relationship between the two characters leans more towards the perspective of Mathilda and what Leon means to her. Leon is seen by both Mathilda and the audience as this guardian angel that is present to watch over her and protect her during this time of crisis. Mathilda has recently lost her family, therefore she would need some sort of way to express that grief but at the same time keep herself safe from the evil men who are after her. Leon is a man who has very little vices, aside from his ability to kill with very little sense of compassion. He wants to protect the girl as he has developed a connection with her, it's not particularly clear on what it is but it is understood that there is very little sense of romance for his feelings towards the girl. Mathilda has lost her sense of innocence, introducing her to a world of unjustified death and drugs that is being led by the hand of power-hungry men, and Leon is completely empathetic towards her urge to gain a sense of justice to the unnecessary murder that was committed, the death of her young and innocent brother.

Luc Besson delivers the film as both an action and dark comedic film. Though certain moments are shown as intense and with a sense of weight but there still lies a comedic aspect found on some of the characters. This dual tone kind of felt awkward on a couple of scenes, particularly during the film's first act but it is much better handled during the rest of the film. Besson was able to avoid the formulaic and cliché footsteps in action films, delivering something that is worth more investing, allowing for enjoyable returns during the future. I think it also due to the fact that Besson gives us a villain that we haven't truly seen before. It's a figure that I believe possesses similar qualities to strange villains like The Dark Knight's The Joker and Fight Club's Tyler Durden, but like the two, taking those qualities and deliver something fresh and exciting. I enjoyed the film's score that was composed by Eric Serra but I did feel its usage was a bit repetitive, sometimes almost to the point of beating me over the head with it. It sometimes felt like Besson didn't have faith in the film's plot, acting and photography in order to deliver the emotional quality that he was going for. Though this issue isn't something that is abundant, but one can feel its presence.

The acting in this film was astounding, with top performances from Reno, Portman and Oldman. One can see the fun and commitment they have given to their roles and showing a complete understanding with the director and his vision to the film. It is actually the intimate scenes between Portman and Reno that truly carry this film, having the audience to be truly invested with their relationship and completely sympathising/empathising with the two characters. There are two brilliant scenes that I want to point out as there is something about it that always brings grin on my face when I think about it, and it's the ones concerning the two lead character's knowledge and love of film. When Leon goes to watch Singin' in the Rain or when both play a game in guessing the iconic figures of American cinema/culture. Oldman didn't need other actors in order for us to feel his presence, as the quirkiness and oddities in his character during solo moments are simply fun to watch. He doesn't want us to completely understand and decipher the character, as the less we could empathise with his intentions the more frightening he comes off as.

Leon: The Professional is an example of an action thriller that also delivers a powerful human relationship that explores the importance of growth, love and loss. Though it did have minor tonal issues and repetitive qualities in its use of the musical score, it's still a film that one shouldn't avoid or pass when the opportunity to watch it arises.

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