Léon: The Professional (1994)
October 12, 2022 7:52 AM - Subscribe

Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is only 12 years old, but is already familiar with the dark side of life: her abusive father stores drugs for corrupt police officers, and her mother neglects her. Léon (Jean Reno), who lives down the hall, tends to his houseplants and works as a hired hitman for mobster Tony (Danny Aiello). When her family is murdered by crooked DEA agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman), Mathilda joins forces with a reluctant Léon to learn his deadly trade and avenge her family's deaths.

Written and directed by Luc Besson.

73% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Netflix. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets. JustWatch listing.

Today, I'm going to post a bunch of movies that have merit and are worth discussing, but to one degree or another, are problematic. I will be tagging them #problematicmovies
posted by DirtyOldTown (8 comments total)
I remember watching Danny Aiello justify safekeeping Léon's earnings rather than a bank, as banks always get knocked over, and the penny dropping that Léon only understands the real world through movies - where banks are constantly robbed. He's naïve and unworldly, lives to a code, and experiences the world through musicals and westerns.

It's still not too late for a Mathilda sequel Natalie! (Although I understand the experience was soured for her with the highly unsavoury attention she got after release)
posted by Molesome at 8:35 AM on October 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Sort of like his predecessor Jef Costello in Le samourai.
posted by praemunire at 9:48 AM on October 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Was Oldman great in this, or what?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by infinitewindow at 1:13 PM on October 12, 2022 [12 favorites]

For a long time this was one of my favorite movies. And it probably still is, but I suppose I feel “weird” about it knowing more about Luc Besson’s history. I know that another problematic issue is the age of Mathilda and her interpersonal relationships and technically the character was originally intended to be an older teenager. But, man, every actor in this movie is On Point. These are spectacular performances, and I still don’t really understand how Reno didn’t gain a foothold in American cinema after this. IIRC, they wanted him for The Matrix but he chose Godzilla instead 😑.

Sorry that I’m kind of rambling here; I struggle with how much I enjoy this movie and also why I’m uneasy discussing the film with folks outside of an environment where folks are willing to acknowledge nuance; see also: Chinatown.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 1:40 PM on October 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

I really like this movie, and I’m kind of disappointed/surprised it only garners a 73% on RT.

I think had Mathilda been a teen, the underlying power and tension of the film would have been greatly diminished. She’s just a kid, and we have to deal with such a severe loss of innocence and her subsequent transformation. It’s a pretty spectacular premiere performance for Portman.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:21 AM on October 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really liked this movie as well. There's some bit of don't mess with twelve year old girls, you might end up sorry. Twelve year old boy me was already a damn good shot with rifles and pistols, the whole tragically born assassin/hitman thing is a different story. I also don't think it would have worked quite as well if she had been a teenager.

I probably have a soft spot for righteous revenge flicks.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:26 PM on October 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

I like this movie while also noting boy howdy that's some problematicness. But god, yes, all the actors give great performances. And, really, depending on which cut you see, it just gets MORE problematic. Yet, still very good!
posted by rmd1023 at 3:42 PM on November 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

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