copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Let us talk about the elephant in the room: the 13 year-old Natalie Portman as Mathilda...with that choker and that bob haircut and that conveniently barren shoulder. I suppose it was OK for me to drool over her because I myself was about the same age as her when the movie first came out and yes, my eyes were eating the screen when she was on it. The creators knew very well what they were doing with the subject matter because they emphasize that stuff and make it part of the plot, especially in the extended addition of the movie.

In the end they do keep it clean. In fact, while parts of the movie go to lengths in order to sexualize the situation, the other parts go equally far in order to keep the material palatable. For example, the main premise of the story is that Mathilda ends up living with and developing an affection for Leon the hit-man, played by Jean Reno. However, Leon's character is still a boy at heart, who never got to grow up due to the hardships in his life, which evens out the psychological levels of these two characters and makes the relationship more innocent and acceptable.

Luc Besson's obsession is with showing distressed but strong hot women with guns that get thrown into the men's world. This creates a contrast like when a woman poses on a bike contrasting tender flesh against masculine machine. And Leon is perhaps the best of Luc's female experiments. In the movie "La Femme Nikita" it was a woman but she was at least a grown woman. In a movie like "Lucy" the character quickly becomes completely overpowered and the vulnerability factor is lost. In Leon, on the other hand, it really is a lonely little girl up against the mobsters - you cannot get any more of a contrast than that. Sadly some of the effect is lost due to the way Mathilda ends up being portrayed.

This character as well as her relation to the world around her are interesting. Her interactions and chemistry with Leon are also interesting. The performance put Natalie Portman into the spotlight as an actress, but her dialogue is not great.

Perhaps the single largest problem in the film is the dialogue. This movie has so much awkward, simplistic cheesy action-movie dialogue, pointing out the obvious and not giving the viewer anything deep to think about. It sounds like something that would be written by a teenage boy, perhaps for a comic book. Matilda's character suffers most of all because she sounds nothing like a kid of her age would sound (which I suppose is a problem more movies suffer from).

Just take the title of the film, which is a typical example of this movie's writing. There is nothing wrong with just "Leon", since that is a main character's name. But the full title of the film is "Leon: the Professional". "The professional" is just such a cheesy thing to put in the title, like something from a teenager's comic book or an 80s B action movie.

The acting is great though. My favorite and never disappointing is Gary Oldman as the main baddie. It feels like this guy puts all of himself behind this performance. There are scenes in this film that make you wonder how close he came damaging his vocal chords or dangerously increasing his blood pressure. One could say that his performance gets very close to overacting, but he totally pulls it off. This is one of his best performances.

The movie looks phenomenal. It has peculiar grungy look. When I was younger watching this movie dubbed in my language it left an impression in my memory that it took place somewhere in Europe even though it is supposed to be New York. People's sweating faces and the cramped apartments with their run down dirty walls combined with Jean Reno's French accent and shot in a warm sepia tone give this film a foreign look. Its looks have character

The soundtrack of this film mixes very well with the visuals. There is a memorable crying violin theme and menacing heavy drums mixed in with atmospheric hums. Those violins give weight to the torment and I swear I could feel the heat getting heavier.

If we want to find another problem with the film we have to go back to the girl. Look, for men who are not parents the whole age limit thing is bullsh*t, whether they would like to admit it or not, and by default guys are basically dogs, so parading a 12 / 13 year old girl in a choker is a cheap trick for a movie maker. Arguably, Leon is an exploitation movie. It just happens to be a very good one, but I feel like our guard is down when reviewing this film due to our mind having been affected by the material. It is like Nabokov's Lolita. Suuure you are reading the book just for its literary quality…

This may calculate in your consideration when deciding which version of the movie to watch. The Extended Cut of the film adds almost half an hour of film with a lot of additional story that actually changes the meaning and dynamic of the movie. The added content is considerably more emotional, sexual but also silly and funny. The short version is cleaner but far less emotionally loaded, cutting out one especially important heart to heart scene.

Leon is a little silly and exploitative but it is one of the best thrillers and one of Luc Besson's best work.

Leon (the Profressional)