Reviewed by: Taran Gingery
|Featuring:||Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Peter Appel, Willi One Blood, Don Creech, Keith A. Glascoe, Randolph Scott, Michael Badalucco, Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Regen, Carl J. Matusovich, Frank Senger, [more]|
|Producer:||Claude Besson, John Garland, Bernard Grenet, Luc Besson, Patrice Ledoux|
“A perfect assassin. An innocent girl. They have nothing left to lose except each other. He moves without sound. Kills without emotion. Disappears without trace. Only a 12 year old girl… knows his weakness.”
Leon (Jean Reno) is a professional killer. He knows his job well and executes every mission with skill and precision. He only has one rule: he will not kill women or children. Then one day, he witnesses a terrible tragedy: his next-door neighbor’s entire family is killed by corrupt police officer Stansfield (Gary Oldman), leaving only the 12-year-old daughter Matilda (Natalie Portman) alive. Leon takes the grief-stricken girl under his wing, albeit reluctantly, but by her request, and begins to teach her the ropes of his trade, while she in turn learns that the revenge she desperately wants may not be the best thing.
Let me begin by saying that, artistically, this is possibly one of the best movies I’ve seen. Luc Besson’s direction and cinematography, as well as the score are flawless. Reno’s performance, as the tenderhearted killer (now there’s two words you don’t see together very often), who only drinks milk and has a soft spot for children and potted plants is the film’s heart and soul. Portman’s first major role is some of her best work, and Oldman chews every scene as the ruthlessly impulsive, constantly high, and classical-music-loving villain. The screenplay is moving and at times, very funny.
Unfortunately, the content warrants this as a film only for adults. Matilda is a rebellious preteen who smokes, is disrespectful towards adults, and uses strong profanity. However, it should be noted that under Leon’s guidance, she drops all of these habits by the end of the film. She also becomes infatuated with Leon, and, at one point, tells a man that she is his lover, rightfully shocking him. However, there is nothing sexual about the relationship between Leon and Matilda, and their bond becomes more of a strong father-daughter one—something she never had, as her father was physically abusive.
Speaking of violence, that is the film’s largest stumbling block. Throughout the film, Leon takes out several baddies, as well as people on different assignments, in bloody fashion. The massacre of Matilda’s family is also graphic and bloody. Stansfield and his men constantly use foul language, which is not quite as disturbing as Matilda’s usage, but, all said, there are at least 20 f-words spoken and that many of s-words, if not more. God’s name is also taken in vain. Also, in an odd game of charades, that actually showcases Portman’s best moment, Matilda dresses in revealing attire and sings Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” (Leon is stumped and quite startled), and elsewhere, she comes across her father and stepmother starting to have sex, clothed and standing up.
It’s a shame that this content had to so strong, although the violence and profanity were not quite unexpected in an R-rated movie about a killer. The movie would still be just as strong if it was more restrained. And the movie is strong. The final message is the importance of self-sacrifice, and the futility of seeking revenge, for in the process, one can lose everything one holds dear. However, one has to wade through the bad to get to the good, and, so, in spite of the film’s cinematic value, strong characters and some good messages, this film is only for discerning adults.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Mild