Léon The Professional

Posted: September 20, 2006 in Movie Reviews

Watched this movie, after a long search for it in all the nearby and/or accessible video rental shops. The search began with me watching ‘Bichoo‘ a hindi remake of it featuring Rani Mukherjee and Deol Junior. though this had bombed in the box office, the story line was powerful. The casting was as loose as it could get, with Rani resembling a hooker more than a spoiled brat.

The original movie however is a class apart with Jean Leno rendering a classy performace in the act as Leon the ‘Cleaner‘ as he likes to call himself. His rendition has the perfect mix of sutlety and power, encapsulating with its depth and yet touching the finer aspects of it. Leon tries to keep his emotions completely suppressed, yet Matilda (in an extraordinary performance by a young Natalie Portman) brings out in him a new-found joy for life that accompanies his growing paternal instincts.

The film follows the story of Léon, played by Jean Reno, a professional
hit man for an Italian Mob crew run by Danny Aiello. He lives next door
to a ferociously independent 12-year-old girl named Mathilda – played
by then newcomer Natalie Portman, whose father is involved in drugs and
crooked cops. One day, a crew of the cops – lead by Gary Oldman in an
over-the-top performance – kills her entire family while Mathilda is
out buying groceries. Taking pity on her, Léon hides her in his
apartment when she returns to save her life. Mathilda learns of Léon’s
hit man profession and decides to follow in Léon’s footsteps as a
“cleaner.” She then falls in love with him and manages to reawaken
emotions within Léon he has kept locked away as part of his profession.

The most dynamic element of this film is undeniably the complicated relationship between Matilda and Leon. With adolescent Matilda more tha onece identtifying her saviour and her hero as her lover, there is an occasional low-key hint of sexual attraction, however as becomes evident from the character potrayed as Leon, for him this is basically a father/daughter or mentor/apprentice relationship.

The less traditional role belongs to an impressive Natalie Portman, yet
another member of the highly-talented, recent group of youthful actors.
Portman portrays a victim of society’s ills, the perfect example of
innocence corrupted. There are likely some viewers who will be
disturbed by Mathilda’s predilection for profanity.

Because of the non-American flavor brought to this film by Besson, The Professional
is anything but typical fare. It is stylish, darkly humorous, and
almost artsy in its approach to the genre. Nevertheless, it delivers
what viewers want from any thriller: lots of action. With some
surprisingly strong character interaction, there’s a lot to like about
this movie, at least for those willing to look beyond all the
bloodshed.

At one point, Leon comments to an attentive Mathilda that “the closer
you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client
.” Through
the intimacy of the link forged by Besson with his audience, there’s no
doubt that he’s as much the consummate professional as his implacable
title character.

A point important to note is the follows:
The film was released in two versions: as Léon  in USA with about 30 mins of footage clipped off and as Léon The  Professional elsewher. The later is the longer and complete version containing a lot of senes which dwelve deep into the relationship beween Matilda and Leon. this contained certain sexual overtures which was considered promiscuous considering the fater-daughter external relationship by the US Censor board. The most ironic thing about the International version of the film is
that with the inclusion of the missing scenes, the film becomes
primarily a heavy, emotional drama punctuated with big action scenes at
the beginning and the end of the film. The film betters reflects the
serious drama of French cinema but is laced with pieces reflecting the
brutality of American cinema.

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Comments
  1. Ken says:

    i strongly felt that I was listening to Rajeev Masand while I was reading the post. I am not sure if you write scripts for him or, you see each of his episods on CNN IBN with utmost concentration and sincerity….

    whtever may be… i liked it, I am not missing his show any more…

    thx..
    Ken

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