Jul 6, 2024

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Luc Besson
Screenplay: Luc Besson

Jean Reno as Léon
Gary Oldman as Norman Stansfield
Natalie Portman as Mathilda
Danny Aiello as Tony

Music: Éric Serra
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Editing: Sylvie Landra
Release Date: November 18, 1994 (USA)
Running Time: 110 minutes (Theatrical Cut), 133 minutes (Director's Cut)
Language: English, French
Freddy's Movie Review

A Classic with Controversy

So here we are with our sixth Luc Besson movie (excluding "Atlantis"), and this is one of those films that people have repeatedly asked me about over the years. "Omg, how come you never watched it? This is a classic!" they would exclaim. Well, I finally watched "Léon: The Professional," and it's a thrilling, albeit uncomfortable, action movie. Let's address the elephant in the room first: the pedo vibes. It's hard to shake the weird feeling when watching a 13-year-old Natalie Portman deliver an amazing performance, knowing that Luc Besson was inspired by his relationship with Maïwenn. Besson met Maïwenn when she was 12, officially started dating her at 15, and married her at 33 when she was pregnant at 16. The movie feels like Luc's attempt to make the idea of love between an apparent mature 13-year-old and an adult seem acceptable. Now that we've cleared that out of the way, let's dive into the movie itself.

Over-the-Top Villainy and Sympathetic Hitmen

The biggest surprise for me was Gary Oldman. His over-the-top villainy was incredibly fun to watch. The scene where he lovingly confronts the guy who's stealing his cocaine, only to later kill his whole family (except for Mathilda), was a standout. Mathilda is saved by Léon and taken under his wing. Jean Reno is excellent as Léon, portraying a naïve, slow-witted hitman who only knows how to kill. It infuriated me to see him being scammed by Tony the mafioso, and I wished to see Tony get his comeuppance, but alas, that doesn't happen. Léon's character evokes much sympathy, making him a compelling and interesting protagonist. It's odd that this was the last Besson movie featuring Jean Reno. Anyway, the film is incredibly stylish, with beautiful cinematography and, surprise, surprise, I actually enjoyed Éric Serra's distinct music this time! It feels like he finally learned to sync the music with the visuals perfectly. Bjork's tracks stand out, though I wasn't a fan of the credits roll song, "Shape of My Heart" by Sting. Ugh!

Stylish Action with a Dose of Surrealism

Despite the controversy, "Léon: The Professional" is a fun movie to watch. It has some really humorous and cool moments. The sense of realism, however, takes a hit. Just like in "Subway," there's an excessive and surreal amount of police presence, and yet this corrupt DEA officer, Norman Stansfield, goes around doing all kinds of naughty stuff in broad daylight. One of the most iconic scenes is when Stansfield shouts "EVERYONE!" but his character has too much authority to bring a real sense of realism. While that might not be the point, it would have intensified the thrilling aspects of the film. It would have been nice to maintain a sense of realism, especially when other scenes felt extremely real—like when the bad guys are all stressed out and jumpy during the home invasion scene. These high-stress moments were palpably tense and realistic, contrasting sharply with the surreal elements. Overall, "Léon: The Professional" is entertaining, though it didn't quite clear my mind of all troubles, except when Gary Oldman was on screen. His presence alone made the movie worth watching, even if it couldn't fully lift my day's bad mood.

🎥 Cinematography (8/10):

Stylish and visually captivating, with beautifully framed shots that enhance the narrative.

📖 Story (6/10):

Engaging but controversial, with an unsettling underlying theme. The narrative is compelling, but some elements detract from the overall experience.

🎬 Direction (8/10):

Luc Besson delivers a compelling film, though the personal undertones might detract for some.

👥 Characters (8/10):

Strong performances from Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, with Gary Oldman stealing the show as the villain.

💥 Visual Effects (6/10):


🎭 Acting (8/10):

Exceptional performances, especially from the young Natalie Portman and the always intense Gary Oldman.

💬 Dialogue (7/10):

Memorable phrases especially from our bad guy that contribute to the film's lasting impact.

🌍 Setting/Atmosphere (7/10):

New York City’s gritty urban setting adds depth to the film’s atmosphere.

🎵 Music (8/10):

Éric Serra's score is well-suited to the film, with tracks that enhance the emotional and visual impact.

😄 Entertainment Value (7/10):

Despite some issues, the film is entertaining with humorous and cool moments, although it didn't fully lift my spirits during my bad mood.

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