Leon: The Professional Luc Besson

Leon: The Professional Luc Besson
Unlike La Femme Nikita, Besson's ultra-stylish female hit-woman action/drama, Leon: The Professional never got a remake, which, looking at Point of No Return, is a good thing. Maybe it's because Besson's (Fifth Element, The Messenger) Leon is in English, unlike Nikita. Or maybe it's because it doesn't look like a "foreign" film, shot in France and the States, with a much brighter look than Nikita. Or maybe it's because of its subtext, which involves an unrequited love story between a 12-year-old girl and a 40-something man, which is too French and too creepy. But more likely, like Nikita, a remake would simply not do justice to the excellent original. Based on Besson's Victor the Cleaner character from Nikita, which Quentin Tarantino liked enough to steal for Pulp Fiction's Mr. Wolf, Leon: The Professional tells the tale of a perfect hit-man (played exceptionally by Jean Reno, for whom the part was written), with no physical attachments, save a plant he lovingly cares for, who's life is thrown into chaos when he saves a 12-year-old girl named Mathilda (13-year-old Natalie Portman's first role) from a group of corrupt cops. Driven by Mathilda, who contradictorily wants revenge and love, Leon takes her on as his apprentice, teaching her the art of "cleaning" while she teaches him the art of "living" and "loving." However, much like a Shakespearean tragedy, you know it's going to end badly, and when Mathilda seeks vengeance on her own, Leon has no choice but to "clean up" after her. Besson always does action well, and the gunplay and shootout scenes are excellent, even nine years later, especially the climactic final standoff. Besson gets some impressive actors, including Gary Oldman as a corrupt cop, who plays it way over the top, and Danny Aiello as Leon's employer. Sadly, in this Superbit edition, which granted, looks excellent, there are no extras to speak of, and you can't help thinking that a commentary track from Besson would have shed a million insights into the film's underlying themes. (Columbia/Sony)