*Originally written July 27th, 2017*
"No women. No kids"
It's a weird thing to say, but I always find it hardest to talk about my favourite films of all-time, as opposed to films I hate. Leon is a film I've loved since I was very, very young (I have hazy images of watching it on VHS when I was maybe 6 or 7? Then it become a film I would watch constantly on DVD as I got older, then Blu-ray, then hopefully 4K when that gets released in the UK. Don't know where I'm going with this.
Anyway, Leon is a film I adore. It's in my top five of all-time. There's just something about it that keeps me watching it. It's violent and tragic, but has genuine heart and sweetness to it. Kinda like Terminator 2 (Why the '90s were the best decade of films for me). It's a film that's inspired a lot of stuff I love and I still find out to be Luc Besson's best film by FAR. I honestly don't have much love for any of his films beside Leon.
Leon is a weird film, and that's only just hit me. It takes place in a world that is so far removed from the real world. It almost feels like a comic-book movie or a graphic novel brought to life (A bit like John Wick). This is a world where a 12 year old girl can be trained to be an assassin after a drug addicted maniac of a DEA agent murders her entire family with no repercussions at all. This is what I like about Besson at his best. He creates interesting worlds, but I feel this is his only real successful attempt.
Jean Reno gives what is easily his best performance as the childlike and naive hit-man Leon, who is clearly a bit slow and emotionally stunted. But this gives way to some scenes of genuine sweetness. One scene I really love is an early scene where Leon is watching a musical film at the cinema by himself and watching the film in some sort of childlike wonder. Leon's mentality also makes sure that the relationship between him and 12 year old Matilda is never creepy, despite the reverse Lolita like overtones.
Natalie Portman is also excellent in her breakout role and what is still probably her best performance. Despite her young age, she takes control of all the emotional scenes between her and Leon.
The villain of the piece, Gary Oldman nearly steals the show as the utterly psychotic Stansfield, the drug addled DEA agent who is always at 11. Even with the over the top performance, there is enough minor and subtle tweaks that keep the character grounded within the world. I do also miss film villains with a love for classical music (God bless '80s and '90s action cinema).
With a film centred around an assassin training a 12 year old girl to be a cleaner, this could have been an over the top explotation film, which would have been fun, but what they went for is much more meaningful and heartfelt. The ending is one of the most beautiful scenes of film-making ever put on screen and will put a tear on the face of anyone who isn't a stone cold sociopath.
There's been a lot of talk about a sequel to Leon following a grown up Matilda as a hit-man. Some of this talk is genuine, some of it is bullshit.
Thankfully, it looks like that will never see the light of day as the script was turned into the standalone film 'Colombiana' instead, which has no connection to Leon. Thank god, this film does not need a sequel. It tells its story perfectly and making a sequel would only go against everything the film built up to.
I wish I could have worded all this better, but I love Leon. One of my favourite films ever and one I will always continue to pick up and watch every now and then. A career high for most people involved. A near peak for '90s cinema and one of the best films of all time.
Leon: The Professional is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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