Though this is essentially a film about a French hit man who is being pursued by a cop who wants to kill him there is a subplot about that same hit man taking in a young American girl. The relationship between the two really is the essential viewing part of the film. Not that watching Gary Oldman run after Jean Reno is boring or anything, but…director Luc Besson (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The Fifth Element) has not fallen into the trap of making it all gooey like many Hollywood films would have. The film still retains its hard edge and stylistic approach despite the warm and fuzzy part of the story.
A professional hit man, or as he calls himself, a “cleaner”, Leon (Jean Reno – Couples Retreat, The Da Vinci Code) is the best at what he does in the city of New York. Leon hails from France and is a shadowy character to say the least. A powerful mob boss (Danny Aiello – Moonstruck, Lucky Number Slevin) uses Leon to eliminate any “problems” that crop up.
Leon’s existence completely changes when his next door neighbours are murdered leaving behind their 12-year-old daughter Mathilda (Nathalie Portman – The Other Boleyn Girls, V for Vendetta). Begrudgingly, Leon finds himself Mathilda’s guardian.
Mathilda is not your average 12-year-old girl as she does not just want protection from Leon, but wants him to help her exact revenge on the murderers. What ensues is that Leon begins training Mathilda in the art of assassination and helps her track down her parents’ murderer (Gary Oldman – A Christmas Carol, Batman Begins), a corrupt DEA agent.
Because you get the international version of the film (as well as the U.S.) on the Blu-ray edition it delves deeper into the sexual tension between Leon and Mathilda. Instead of being creepy (he is an adult and she is twelve) it is touching because it is subtle not overly sexualized. We understand that this is platonic love.
Bottom line is that the international version is the one to watch. Things that are just hinted at in the U.S. version are fleshed out more fully giving us a deeper insight into the characters. The extra minutes in the international version allow us more of an understanding of the relationship between the two characters.
In her first film role Natalie Portman is a wonder. At such a young age she really gave us a taste of the talent she possesses with this role. She looks like a child, but brings a maturity to the role that is breathtaking.
-10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back
-Jean Reno: The Road to “Leon”
-Natalie Portman: Starting Young
-Trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Felon, 12, The Taking of Phelam 1 2 3, Angels & Demons, District 9, and Moon