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Starring: Jean Rollin, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello
Directed by Luc Besson year:
1994 USA

Besson’s follow up to La Femme Nikita is similar in nature, its about a hitman (Jean Reno) who hasn’t experienced life until he takes in a young girl named Matilda (Natalie Portman) and builds up a strange relationship with her. With ‘La Femme Nikita’ a young woman is turned into a “cleaner” or hitman and given a new life. In Leon a lonely hitman whose only interaction with the outside world is his boss and mentor (played by Danny Aiello) meets up with Matilda under dire circumstances, takes care of her and teaches the young miss his trade.

‘Leon’ is the Japanese uncut and wide-screen version of the film released in North America under the title ‘The Professional’ and can be easily found under that title in any video store. With the uncut version you get a nice chunk of extra footage, obviously footage which was cut to shorten the length of the film or probably stuff Besson felt wasn’t necessary. Nonetheless, the extra’s aren’t bad and you can only make an already good movie better with them. The scenes are comprised of Leon taking Matilda along with him on different hits, as well as a scene with Leon and Matilda celebrating Matilda’s first hit by going out to a fancy restaurant.

By far Leon is one of Besson’s best, its not an action packed extravaganza but more so a character study and a very interesting idea put to film. Reno’s character looks shoddy and not what you would expect to be a hired killer for one second, I’m guessing this is the point. Reno’s acting ability as well is not high quality stuff but this role suits his monotone style perfectly and no one could play this role better (Robert Ginty from ‘The Exterminator’ comes to mind, he was well suited for that role but is not a good actor as well). Something else which is quite funny in the film is the fact I’m pretty sure Reno is French and not Italian while his character in the movie is Italian and his accent sounds severely French, its like when they used to get Italians to portray Indians in old spaghetti westerns. I haven’t seen Reno star in much else except for a supporting role in Brian De Palma’s ‘Mission Impossible’ with Tom Cruise.

The best character in the movie by far is Gary Oldman as the crooked pill popping cop Stansfield. Oldman gives meaning to the word bad guy in this as he plays a homicidal maniac with a sadistic lust for classical music, A great over the top villain. If you like ‘The Professional’ then a version with some more scenes will definitely be right up your alley but if you don’t really care a whole lot about this sort of thing the North American release should do you just fine.