June 9, 2014: Léon: The Professional (1994)

leon
Cast and Crew: Luc Besson (Director); Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

What It’s About: Léon (Jean Reno) is a professional killer whose impermeable aplomb is penetrated when a corrupt law enforcement team (headed by ever-psychotic Gary Oldman) assassinates the family of a young girl (Natalie Portman) in his apartment building and she comes to him for help.  The two form a sort of family, buying groceries, caring for a potted plant, and seeking retribution.  Sharp cinematography, nuanced acting for an action flick, and characteristic Besson touches make this distressing film worth watching.

Why Watch it Today?: Natalie Portman celebrates her 33rd birthday, almost 20 years after her big screen debut in this emotional action thriller.  The relationship between her wise-but-vulnerable tween and the violent avenger is far more compelling than the similar central relationship in The Crow, another action movie from the same year that I reviewed here previously.  At the same time, their pseudo-family is somewhat disturbing.  The power of the role set Portman up for fame as a teenage actress with real dramatic capability.  It’s a pity that the films she later became most known for — Star Wars episodes I-III — required her to play an emotionless automaton.

 

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