Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Vault: "Leon: The Professional"

It's been at least eight years since I watched Luc Besson's classic in its entirety. I distinctly remember the quarters of milk, the potted plant, and Matilda's choker. Other than that, I remember that it had one of the greatest shootouts in movie history.

One of the most impressive aspects of "The Professional" is the cinematography. The movie is obviously filmed on location in New York City, with long shots of the characters in a real environment. One of the most palpable scenes is when Leon and Matlida are on the rooftop overlooking Central Park, where they practice with the sniper rifle.

Of course, you can't talk about "The Professional" without discussing the intensity of the characters and the impressive acting. Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, and Gary Oldman all deliver poignant performances. For me, Gary Oldman is the obvious choice for standout performance - but I have to tip my hat to the young Portman for being brave enough to take on the Lolita-esque role of Matilda.

It's debatable whether or not Luc Besson's film is an allegory for pedophilia. When I watched the movie in full again (now as an adult), I noticed that I was a bit disturbed by moments in Leon and Matilda's relationship. My brain must have blocked out the scene when Matilda dresses up as Madonna and does her "Like A Virgin" dance. Remember when she bluntly tells the hotel manager that Leon is not her father, but her lover? That scene was creepy as hell. I guess you can read into it and decipher the underlying tones of perversion, but if you choose not to, then Leon and Matilda's relationship is nothing more than an out-of-the-norm father/daughter type of thing.

"The Professional" has one of the the best endings in movie history. When Leon is holed up in the room with 50 or so SWAT team officers outside the door, Luc Besson creates a tense moment just before the shootout. (Earlier in the film, Gary Oldman's character mentions that he loves the calm before the storm that Beethoven creates in his music - right before he massacres Matilda's family). And when Leon escapes in a SWAT uniform, he sees the amount of force that has been sent to take him out; it's a haunting scene that makes you think Leon is about to escape. When we see Stansfield approaching Leon from behind, we realize that Leon is about to die. But surprise! It had been so long seen I had seen it, and I forgot all about the grenade pin that Leon pulls off before he dies. A truly poetic ending.

"Leon: The Professional" is a perfect movie. Luc Besson is a truly amazing filmmaker. If you enjoyed this movie, then I highly recommend that you watch (or rewatch) "La Femme Nikita," "The Fifth Element," two of his other acclaimed films. This is one of those movies that no movie lover is complete without.


  1. Love this friggen movie! Great review. And I totally agree. The ending is superb. I haven't revisited Besson's work in some time, but coming across this review has emphatically reminded me, I absolutely must.

  2. Fantastic Movie! Jean Reno was awesome. Also it is some of Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman's best work.

  3. Hello, as a big fan on Leon (it's my favorite movie actually...), I enjoyed your article *but* I felt the need to tell you that the relation between Mathilda and Léon had nothing like a father and a daughter would have. They were lovers. I assume you didn't watch the extended version? If you'd watch it the ambiguity between Léon and Mathilda reach another level...
    Also, In the original script, Léon and Mathilda were supposed to make love (I swear it's true). But because of the youg age of Nathalie Portman, he changed it. xx


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