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Leon/The Professional (1994)

November 5, 2009

9/10 Badass Mentors

One of the all-time great actions movies and arguably the second best thing Luc Besson has done for this fine planet, barely trailing behind La Femme Nikita.

The Professional is about a hitman named Leon who takes a young girl named Mathilda under his wing after her entire family is murdered because her dad bumped some coke off a crooked cop, (nice one, pops). Naturally, the girl wants to get revenge on the said cop, one thing leads to another and she convinces her brand new surrogate dad to train her as a junior assassin and in return she helps him to break out of his reclusive shell. All the while, this jerk cop is tracking down the hitman-with-a-heart-of-gold because his crew is getting offed at an alarming rate by a mysterious Frenchman who’s damn good with a gun. Being that there aren’t too many people that fit into that category in NYC (I’m guessing), and not to mention that this little girl can ID the cop for whacking her family, Leon quickly finds himself in hot water.

The relationship between Leon and Mathilda gets a little strange at times – especially in the Director’s Cut – but everything else about this movie is the bomb.

Geez, where to begin.

How about we start off with the mastermind behind it all, writer and director Luc Besson. Even though it’s been over a decade since his last good effort came out (The Fifth Element in ’97), when he’s on, this mofo is on. There are two things that Besson does really damn well as a film maker: 1) balance out serious action with lighthearted fun and, 2) pacing, pacing, pacing – something he probably does better than any other director I know of. The plot here constantly escalates from perfectly calm to flat-out warzone so smoothly that you’ll be too busy peeling the vice grip off your thigh to think about how the shit managed to hit the fan so fast without even seeing it coming.

Kinda hard to describe, but let me tell ya, folks, it’s a thing of beauty. Besson’s also whipped up a great script to boot with great characters and great dialogue for his cast to work with. And that bring me to the cast…

Jean Reno (who also played a hitman in the aforementioned La Femme Nikita – fun fact!) plays Leon, and for those who don’t know, Jean Reno is the freakin’ man. This is a fantastic introduction to a fantastic actor who really deserves to no longer be recognized as “That guy from Ronin (awesome)/The Pink Panther (not awesome)/Couples Retreat (heard it was far from awesome), etc.” There aren’t a whole lot of movie hitmen I can think of that measure up to Leon, and a lot of that is due to Reno’s performance. Someday he’ll get his due, and that will be a glorious day.

This was also the breakout role for a young Natalie Portman as Mathilda. I still think this is the best thing she’s ever done, which is kind of double-edged sword at this point, but since I’m talking about The Professional and not about Portman’s career, gonna give her the props she deserves. A very mature and demanding role for such a young kid and she totally pulls it off.

Danny Aiello is also in this as Leon’s boss – for those of us who still remember Danny Aiello. What the hell happed to that guy? He used to be in everything. One of history’s mysteries.

But the star of the show, the psycho actor to end all psycho actors, is the one and only Gary Oldman as our crooked cop, Lt. Stansfield. Dude, Oldman’s one of the best in the biz and to say he takes this role to a whole ‘nother level is an understatement if there ever was one. Stansfield is one of the great movie villians, straight up evil, cold as a carcass, and loving every minute of it. After you see what Oldman does here, it should be no surprise why he’s become the go-to guy for all characters batshit crazy. Also has the best lines if that wasn’t enough.

Man, this movie just kicks so much ass. Seen it a bagillion times and it never gets old. Such a cool ride, the action scenes are out of sight, phenomenally well crafted – especially for an action movie – and it’ll blow you away, even if you’ve already seen it before. In a nutshell, if you’re looking for one brutally dope action movie, everyone would should just go ahead and watch The Professional.


That’s right…


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Marc permalink
    November 5, 2009 12:58 pm

    As a fellow ‘Leon’ fanatic, I think this really is a perfect movie and very deserving of a 10. Why did you hold back?

    Yes, the International cut (with the love story) gets a bit creepy but it still is an amazing film. It really has it all and I totally agree with you that it never gets old.

    • November 5, 2009 1:06 pm

      Haha, if it was THE greatest action movie of all time, then it would have gotten that ten. Unfortunately, until a movie comes along that tops T2, looks like it’s all 9’s. Still, not gonna knock anyone for giving this one a ten.

  2. Branden permalink
    November 5, 2009 3:44 pm

    There was a romance in the movie. I didn’t see the director’s cut. Maybe I shouldn’t. The way the movie is — the theatrical cut– works best for me.

    Come on, a guy sleeping in a chair with one eye open. Shit, that’s the pinnacle of badassery.

  3. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    November 5, 2009 4:36 pm

    i prefer the directors cut. i think it adds more character development and i like the scenes of them out on jobs together.

    and we get this scene…

    beat ya!

    • November 9, 2009 2:09 pm

      Haha, forgot about that scene. That was awesome. Haven’t seen the director’s cut in a long time, but yeah, has some great scenes, especially the montage where they’re busting into people’s apartments and taking them out. What a kickass movie.

  4. November 8, 2009 10:37 am

    Excellent review of a cracking film! I’d give it a 10 out of 10 myself but I’d also rate T2 the same. Having said that, I’d probably stick Aliens at the top of my Greatest Action Movies Top 10.

    • November 9, 2009 2:10 pm

      T2, Aliens, and The Professional are probably all in my top 5 action movies list, so way to freakin’ go. Thanks for reading, man. Love your site btw.

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