Classicof the Week: Léon: The Professional (1994)

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Léon: The Professional is a 1994 English language French thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson. The film stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and Natalie Portman in her acting debut. The story is about Léon (Reno), a professional hitman, that unwillingly takes in a 12 year old girl named Mathilda (Portman), after her parents are murdered by extreme Drug Enforcement Administration, Norman Stansfield (Oldman). Mathilda becomes Leon’s partner after learning the ways of a hitman.

This film has become a cult classic and is one of Luc Besson’s most, if not the most well known films. Despite the fact that this film was (and still is) highly controversial because of Natalie Portman’s character and the over-the-top violence, and despite the fact that many movie theaters refused to show it and the ones that did, cut out most of the film, it was still critically acclaimed. Portman, Reno and Oldman are all equally outstanding in their roles.

The film is extremely violent, just like the other cult classic of 1994, Pulp Fiction. Besson could have toned down the violence and not made Mathilda so “lolita” like. He also could have made her parents not abusive to her. There is far too much shooting, lots of foul language (even used by Mathilda) and abuse. The film is very dark, even in sunny scenes, like many cult classics. It has a sort of Taxi Driver meets Lolita feel to it.

Is this one of the best dark dramas and cult films I’ve ever seen? Yes and no. Acting wise, fantastic, but far too violent and dark. So I have a love- hate relationship with this one. It is not outstanding, but not plain awful either. I just wish there had been more light and less gore. 18+ 3/5

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