Leon is a movie about two unlikely souls meeting in the most unlikely of situations. Mathilda, a twelve-year-old girl played by Natalie Portman loses her entire family to a corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield played by the exceedingly brilliant Gary Oldman only to be rescued by a skilled but quiet hitman Leon played by the excellent veteran actor, Jean Reno. Leon is a beautiful film about a tough child who wants to become a hitman to avenge her brother’s death and civilizes the man she chooses as her teacher.
A big reason why I love this film is because of the way Besson paints Leon’s character. The complete opposite of an archetype hitman, he excels in his line of work but does not partake in any of the riches that came out of it. He enjoys Gene Kelly movies, has a house plant as his best friend and drinks milk, a lot of milk. This dichotomy that is Leon, the hitman with a soul makes for a character with many layers and Reno pulls this character off beautifully on screen. This movie was also Natalie Portman’s debut acting role. Her character Mathilda, may be portrayed as a child, but other than the fact that she watches cartoons she is an adult character with adult sexuality. In the course of the movie, the two of them to come to terms with what their relationship really is. Reno reprises his ‘cleaner’ role from Nikita (in which he was called Victor) plays his character deadpan, we see how he feels through his mannerisms and nuances instead of him physically saying it, and the closer he is drawn to Mathilda, the more uncomfortable he appears.
However, this movie does have its flaws. My biggest problem with this film is distinguishing just what genre of film this is, is it an action film with a bit of romance? Is it a romance film with a bit of action? Is it a critique on the sexuality of children? The scene that bothers me the most is the dress-up scene, Mathilda’s impression of Marilyn Monroe was flirty and sexual, however it is still coming from a twelve-year-old acting sexy in front of a late 30s man he barely knew and I found that extremely uncomfortable.
Aside from all the gritty scenes and cringe worthy declarations of ‘love’. Leon is ultimately one of the most humanizing movies ever, throw in Gary Oldman playing the best psycho there could ever be makes for an action packed thriller. Whether the two were ever romantically in love remains an open book, but I can definitely say that the two deserved each other. Leon is a compelling story film that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. And remember, it’s when you start to become really afraid of death that you learn to appreciate life…
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