One of the greatest films of the 90s, Léon (also known as Léon: The Professional) is a downright gripping, thoroughly entertaining & wholly satisfying action thriller that’s intense right off the bat, features an interesting set of characters, and benefits immensely from explosive performances from its terrific ensemble.
The story follows a professional hitman who reluctantly takes a 12-year old girl under his wing after her entire family is wiped out by a corrupt DEA agent. But when she learns about his real profession, she begs him to teach her the skills of his trade so she can avenge the murder of her family and eventually becomes his protégée.
Written & directed by Luc Besson, the film grabs the viewers’ attention from its opening segment which introduces the titular assassin & his “cleaning” skills in a clear-cut fashion. The hitman-apprentice relationship is allowed to develop at a gradual pace but there’s a sexual tension to it that gives it an uncomfortable vibe.
The script keeps the narrative tight & tense by discarding trivial stuff that would’ve slowed it down and has a clear sense of direction. Characters are provided ample depth & bestowed with meaty arcs which the cast explores to full extent. It’s never in a hurry yet there is a charged intensity to its flow of events that’s perceptible from start to finish.
Natalie Portman on ‘High on Films’
The well-chosen shooting locations & aptly detailed set pieces show a familiar yet distinct side of New York while the bright, warm & sunny color palette impart a radiant quality to it. And the clever placements, smooth maneuvering & kinetic operation of the camera, in addition to the slick editing & pulsating score, make the overall experience all the more thrilling.
Coming to the performances, Léon packs an excellent cast in Jean Reno, Gary Oldman & Natalie Portman. Reno is perfect as the eponymous hitman, Portman couldn’t have asked for a better debut, and their chemistry is the core ingredient that makes this film work on so many levels. But it’s actually Oldman who steals the show with what’s arguably his best act to date, and certainly my favorite.
Gary Oldman on ‘High on Films’
On an overall scale, Léon is a confidently directed, smartly scripted, skillfully photographed, sharply edited, expertly scored & strongly performed symphony of violence & vengeance that still hasn’t lost any of its potency. Scoring high in both style & substance, Léon remains one of the finest examples of 90s action cinema, and can still rival the best of what its genre has to offer today. Absolutely worth your time & money, this vicious, violent & vengeful delight comes highly recommended.