1994 / Director. Luc Besson.
Watching LEON is like catching up with an old friend every few years. Each time I visit with him I learn something new. My respect for him increases and I always hope to see him again soon. By him, of course, I mean "it"... the film. I also wonder if the peace lilly lives on? I hope it does. No doubt most of you are well familiar with this amazing film from French director Luc Besson. It was made in '94 at a time when Tarantino was making waves. Despite being set in New York, LEON offered a European sensibility to hungry movie-goers, with a heavy emphasis on story. Three incredible performances are showcased. Jean Reno gives a career-defining turn in the lead and Gary Oldman is mind-numbingly good as a psychotic and crooked cop... but it's Natalie Portman's debut role as Matilda who steals the show. At 12 years of age she was charged with conveying some of the deepest, most challenging and controversial themes of the year. When her family is brutally executed by corrupt cops (lead by Oldman) Matilda seeks refuge with her neighbour, a reclusive hit man. Striking a deal he agrees to train her as a "cleaner" and she agreed to teach him how to read. Naturally an unlikely bond forms. This story is a lot for a little girl to handle and she carries it like a seasoned professional. There are two cuts of the film and Besson is proud of both, however, it's the extended cut that will confront you the most. In a parallel to Oldman's character's penchant for Beethoven, the film flows likes an orchestral score. Its eloquent, seemly and powerful. I most recently watched it again last night and now that I am writing this I am ready for it again. A modern classic.