FROM MY OWN PRIVATE COLLECTION "Leon: The Professional" (1994)
When I consider all the notable films from 1994, I usually think of Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, Quiz Show, Red, Bullets Over Broadway and Ed Wood. I hate to admit it, but my mind doesn't immediately remember to include this film.
And I wish it would, because it's just as memorable as the others, if not more so.
It's got a great, original concept (a milk-drinking, musical-loving hitman taking a little girl under his wing) and some exciting action scenes, not to mention, great performances from its principal cast.
It's not a movie that shows its hand too often, and whenever the film seems like it might veer into some risky waters (i.e. Mathilda's and Leon's evolving relationship), it handles the challenges well.
Jean Reno makes for an interesting leading man, considering his character's profession and his atypical Hollywood look. He's not exactly a superstar in America, oftentimes showing up in bit parts, but he proves here that he can carry a picture on his shoulders if he fits the part, and from where I'm standing, he's yet to fit a part more perfectly.
His younger co-star, however, steals the show from him. Natalie Portman was only 11 when she was cast, but just like Mathilda, she seems to have been a little girl wise beyond her years. She balances comedy (see the scene where she dresses up as celebrities) and drama (ringing Leon's doorbell after the bloodbath in her apartment) remarkably well, putting some experienced adult actors to shame.
But neither Reno or Portman is a match for the acting chameleon that is Gary Oldman. From the moment we're introduced to Stansfield, we know we're not going to see a villian we've seen before. Whether he's taking pills in that weird, almost masochistic way, or shooting unarmed people at random, or suddenly yelling in the middle of a conversation, Oldman holds your attention and leaves you wishing you could see more of a him as soon as his scenes end.
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