Léon The Professional: Deluxe Edition Luc Besson

It must be Luc Besson appreciation month, as "deluxe editions" of Besson's visually opulent The Fifth Element and artistically violent Leon The Professional have recently surfaced. Of course, the complete lack of Besson in the extras is strange; considering he hasn't directed since 1999's The Messenger, it's not like he's been too busy to participate. Still, his absence doesn't diminish his films, especially Léon, which still looks strong (Besson has a great eye and often operates the camera), hasn't aged at all since its release and is really a tragic (icky?) love story masquerading as a kill-crazy rampage. Based on Besson's Victor the Cleaner character from La Femme Nikita, Léon is the tale of a perfect hit-man (played exceptionally by Jean Reno), with no attachments, save a plant, whose life is thrown into chaos when he saves a 12-year-old girl named Mathilda (11-year-old Natalie Portman's first role) from a group of corrupt cops. Driven by Mathilda's need for revenge and love (the sexual subtext between the older Leon and the prepubescent Mathilda made the film difficult for American audiences to accept), Leon takes her on as his apprentice, teaching her the art of "cleaning" while she teaches him the art of "living." However, when Mathilda seeks vengeance on her own, Leon has no choice but to "clean up" after her. In re-watching the film, it's undeniable that Portman is simply amazing in conveying the necessary emotions and her remarkable achievement at such a young age is touched on in the "Starting Young" featurette. Only two more featurettes are included (thin for a two-disc edition) — a retrospective and one on Reno — but it's the "Fact Track" that's the most interesting addition. Making up for the lack of Besson, the "Fact Track" is captivating in a Pop Up Video sort of way, displaying tidbits of info throughout the film, like the fact that Liv Tyler also auditioned for the role of Mathilda but was too old (she was 15), Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves were considered for the film and when the first elevator was installed in NYC (1857). Still, you can't help lamenting the lack of Besson, as his participation could have shed a wealth of insight into the film, especially its uncomfortable love story, supposedly based on his real-life relationship with actress Maïwenn Le Besco. Plus: bonus previews. (Columbia/Sony)