Isaacs Picture Conclusions

Review: Léon (1994) – Four Top Hats

leon poster

“I take no pleasure in taking life if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.”
– Stansfield

Guess who just rocked up to assist Eric’s dire need to keep The IPC up and running for all us lovelies? That’s right, me!

Eric and I spoke about Léon a while ago, one of his all time favourite movies. I had never seen it and I could just hear his heart shattering across all that water, land, and mountainous terrain. What? Never? That would never do. Seeing as I had a guest spot to fill here, he was rather insistent (hint, hint, wink, wink soon became push, push, shove, shove) that I check it out and share my thoughts with you all. I figured seeing as the last two weeks have been fun and games and really hot specimens, I could settle for something like this.

Léon… like how the hell did I manage to miss this? “No women, no children.” Jean Reno bore the titular character and my goodness, he was good. I knew that I was going to see some family get butchered, I knew I was going to see a young girl swear vengeance, I knew she was going to be trained by the best of the best, but what I did not see coming was how this movie was going to be laid out in particular. For instance, there was plenty humour that was simply fantastic. It was funny and smart and ludicrous all at once. On the flipside, this movie was devastatingly sad and beautiful.

leon teaching her the gun

“The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.” – Léon

The array of characters we are presented with at first mean nothing. Léon is a damn good assassin that doesn’t give a damn about anyone and lives an exceptionally lonely little life. It is repetitive, boring, and a shockingly meek existence for someone who must surely be paid well for assassinations. Meek is actually not even the right word. Frugal, measly, depressing, impoverished. Any of those might ring more true to the conditions he lived in. Nevertheless, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), Léon’s exceptionally young next door neighbour, takes an interest in him, observes him, and chats with him from time to time. Her father is involved in some shady dealings, and is an abusive prick of note (I cannot abide abusive people). Léon sees this, and while on some level it seems to penetrate him that Mathilda is being abused by her father at home, he dismisses it completely on another.

leon-the-professional-1310300

Mathilda: “You love your plant, don’t you?” Léon: “It’s my best friend. Always happy. No questions.”

I am sure you are all familiar with the story? DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman) shoots up Mathilda’s family home, killing her stepmother and stepsister, her abusive father, and her four year old brother whom she actually loved. Running to the store to pick up some groceries is the only reason she survives the massacre, and returning home she skips her family apartment and moves straight on to Léon’s, who lets her in. Now, however, she has become his issue, his responsibility. Mathilda asks that Léon train her to become a “cleaner” like he is, she swears vengeance on Norman and all who are involved, and soon undergoes training. Matters are slightly exacerbated when Mathilda constantly expresses her desires and feelings about Léon to him, making him uncomfortable. Mathilda needs to exact her vengeance to continue her life, and Léon is learning from Mathilda what it is to have someone in his life to care about, someone other than himself.

the professional gary oldman

“I like these calm little moments before the storm.” – Stansfield

Alright, so now that all that is out of the way, I know it is a realtively stock-standard story (not the assassination bit, but the becoming responsible for someone side). The more I got to know Léon, the more he broke my heart. It was so sweet to see his sheer enjoyment and pleasure of watching a movie at the cinema, his appreciation for the small little things. I pitied him for not being able to read or write. That really, really crushed me on so many levels (I love being literate too much to give it up, being able to read and write is one of the greatest gifts of all). He was a soft man, and he was really good at what he did, but on the same hand he had no real people skills, which made him an easy mark for people to mess around with. He was not particularly world wise, but he has his own intellect that had nothing to do with people, money, or reading and writing. Mathilda taught him things like reading and writing, and just watching him learn how to do it as well as use it was inspiring and crushing. Léon’s facial expressions and his innocence, too, were sometimes really sad. It was sweet to watch them teach each other things and learn from one another. There was surprising amounts of humour watching Mathilda training with Léon (particularly thinking about the scene where they go into that dealer’s apartment and discuss the gut shot and then higher up in the chest). Also watching that plant get dragged all over them was rather funny, too.

Leon-The-Professional-1

“Revenge is not a good thing, it’s better to forget.” – Léon

However, there were other scenes that just made me downright uncomfortable (this is looking at you, Mathilda). It was a little bit bizarre to see this child attempting to seduce Léon, falling in love with him. For instance, they both loved each other, but it was certainly not in even remotely the same way. He viewed her as a lifeline, something of a daughter, and she was always angling for something else. What I am glad about, however, is that it never explored that disgusting avenue, as I would have thrown the towel in right there, for better or worse (Killer Joe, this is really something you perfected made more disturbing than ever before). I liked how they both learned, and he realised that there was more to life than sitting across the table from Tony (Danny Aiello), taking jobs, killing people, and watering his plant.

leon the professional chimey

“You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Mathilda.” – Léon

Now to address another side of this completely: this is not really a movie you can take too seriously, if you are looking at Léon and Mathilda in particular. If she were a little older, it may have changed the ballgame into something more realistic and serious, but you just can’t really buy into that from a twelve year old, if you know what I mean? This wasn’t really a showkiller for me, but it was always on the periphery of my mind, that Mathilda was exceptionally young, and he was  lot older, she may be “tough”, but that does not change the fact that when all is said and done she is still only a child. Natalie Portman is still not the best actress of all time, but she worked well enough for this. This was a solid role for her, one of her better ones. The acting, overall, was decent for this and carried the stories and the characters just fine, so there is that. Oldman was incredibly freaking weird though, what a crackpot! Overall, I enjoyed the movie and could definitely recommend it to others. I know it took me an age to get to, but it was worth the wait!

67 comments

  1. I think we should take over The IPC for good. Review all the classics! The Godfather, Charlie Chaplin films, and, I dunno…. The Bridge On The River Kwai! All that good shit Eric hates. ; )

    Great review, Zoe! This sure is a film that men love. I didn’t fully understand why when I watched it years ago – I know I should probably watch it again someday. I think Natalie Portman is very good in this, though. I think she was talented from a young age and has sort of lost that as she got older? Anyway – I found the same bits disturbing that you did but understand that her character had been forced to grow up far too fast due to her circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’LL TAKE IT! 😛

      Thank you so much lady. I see that it is popular with the guys, but I can understand why though. It is pretty good. You should totally have a rewatch!

      I can get the growing up too fast and all that but wtf man, that was a bit heavy at the best of times. I was like noooo, please don’t do it.

      Like

    • 🙂 I am glad that you enjoyed this one so much! I have yet to see Amelie (I keep saying I will and then shifting it back), though it seems I must change that!

      Like

      • My Dearest PSC,

        It doesn’t strike me as mine, either, but Mark spoke pretty highly of it, too, and it seems something that is rather out of his realm, too. I will revert to you when I (eventually, one day) get to it.

        Love,

        JB

        Like

  2. theipc

    Dearest, Dearest SBJB,

    What a beautiful thing you’ve done here!! Thank you so very much for helping take care of the shop while I’m OOT and ABOOT!!! I’m heading to the pool for a while and then going into town for lunch and to see what town is all about. Actually, I might get room service breakfast first! I wish we didn’t live so far away from each other!! I’d totally get you a souvenir!! Maybe I’ll get you one anyway and send you a pic!!

    My Love,

    Relaxed Chop

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Vacationing Chop,

      But of course! Anything, you know it! Name it and it shall be done! Ahhhhh, you’re totally living the life out there! I hope that you are having a blast. Me too, that would be awesome! POST CARD! 😛 Small stuff!

      I WANT PICS! NOW!

      Love,

      Studious SBJB

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A genuine classic movie, easily Natalie Portman’s best work, it was all downhill after this IMO. Gary Oldman also produced his best performance. The relationship between the two main characters is brilliantly played, never overly sentimental and not sidestepping the realities of the world they inhabit. Great movie, great review.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Uber AwesomeSauce review. I too had a soft spot for Leon and found it somewhat sad that his life was so routine I disagree with you about Mathilda being young as a problem. I don’t think it would work well if she was older. Yeah she may be a child but she was more mature then Leon who is essentially still a small boy. I never saw her as trying to seduce him, and yet it is understandable why she tries because he is the only positive adult male role model she’s known.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much! He was such a sad creature sometimes. I don’t know, there were times where it was was perfect, and then others where it struck me that if she were just a little older it would have been better suited for some things. She was more mature in some aspects, and others he was mature. I liked that dynamic of their relationship, it really worked well. They both gave and took from the other what they had to.

      Hmmm, I love how everything is open to interpretation 🙂 An instance of attempted seduction for me was in the restaurant, for example, where she tried to kiss him and such. I could understand why she would feel for him the way she did (he was the only positive male in her life).

      Liked by 1 person

      • theipc

        JBSB,

        The original release here in the theater didn’t include the restaurant scene for prude Americans. It only showed up on the directors cut DVD.

        Love you,

        SC

        Like

      • SC,

        Hahaha! That’s pretty funny. I thought it was a rather odd scene. She went from all “let’s kiss” to laughing her head off and what not. I was just like erm… k.

        Love,

        JBSB

        Like

  5. Great review, glad you liked it. Been ages since I’ve seen it. It’s probably Portman’s best ever performance, along with Black Swan. Haha, and can’t believe I never noticed that Eric was aping the cover of Leon with that photo of himself at the top of the page. Cheers to movierob for picking up on that.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yaaayyy Zoe like Leon: The Professional!! I was just watching this on TV the other day! I quite enjoy it, too. Action-packed, hilarious, sad–so much more than I had expected it to be when I watched it for the first time! So from what you say…four top hats?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great review! Must give it a watch….. Jean Reno is one of my favorite actors.The thing that kept me from watching it was the Natalie Portman’s character’s infatuation with Léon;your review cleared my doubts about it. Thanks once again 🙂
    P.S.——-Have you checked out Wasabi (2001)’? It has Jean in a lovely role of a father and Bond girl Carole Bouquet(cameo) .

    Like

  8. Pingback: Magic Mike (2012) Review | Cinema Parrot Disco

  9. As a teacher, I have, at uncomfortable times, been the object of adolescent affection. Children that age sometimes mistake trust and comfort for hormonal love, and so it is I have never questioned Mathilda’s response to Leon. Always fit pretty well, in my opinion.

    For whatever that’s worth.

    Great review, Zoe.

    Like

    • Thanks Josh!

      Oh dear, that must be truly awkward! I know it happens, it is the only decent guy she knows and all, she was just slightly too forward about it which I was not particularly a fan of.

      Like

      • I prefer to work with teens, and have heretofore always done so (though this next year I’ll be going back to work with 9 and 10 year olds). What do you DO? Try to be gentle but firm, to re-establish professional boundaries, and then be very certain there are witnesses to every interaction you have with the student in question.

        It is definitely a bad situation in which to find yourself, which is why it’s very fortuitous that it is very rare.

        Like

      • Hmmmm, sounds like it is going to be an adjustment going back to the younger kids. Yeah, that’s what I was wondering. I mean we’ve all seen movies/shows where a younger individual is rebuffed but then ends up doing really, really dodgy things that have some serious consequences for the teacher involved. Sounds like a really tricky situation :/

        I am glad to hear that it is not a common thing!

        Like

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