Review – Léon: The Professional (1994)

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Welcome to Assasin Week: Day 1. Today, we are starting off the week with a rather famous film that fits the week, and that’s Léon: The Professional. As you are possibly aware, there are two versions of this film, the original, and the edited down version for us pathetic Americans that have problems with certain scenes. That was, of course, over 20 years ago. We have since lightened up and typically encourage being bold in artistic choices. So if you have a chance, choose this one and forget the other one. You’ll know the difference. The American version is just called The Professional. Like it or not, this was the intended version that the director wanted to tell.

After her father, mother, older sister and little brother are killed by her father’s employers, the 12-year-old daughter of an abject drug dealer is forced to take refuge in the apartment of a professional hitman, who at her request, teaches her the methods of his job so she can take her revenge on the corrupt DEA agent who ruined her life by killing her beloved brother. – IMDb

Now for my first impressions. This film was all about metaphors, and not all of them I understood, but I could understand the dynamics between certain opposites. A common theme you’ll see nowadays is opposites attract, but not in a romantic way, in a much deeper way. You’ll see this exact type of dynamic in the video game The Last of Us and even this year’s Logan, right? Older guy teaming up with a young girl. The dynamics between the two are clearly hard-to-miss. Old man, young girl, strong, weak, tired, full of energy. In the case of Léon, he was sort of a childlike adult while the girl was very old for her age and ready to leave her kid life behind. The first time you see her, she’s smoking a cigarette, and the first time you see Léon, he’s drinking a glass of milk – case in point.

It is that dynamic, mixed with an unrivaled take on cinematography, that ultimately makes this film an instant classic. It knew what it was doing on all counts. On a side note, holy crap, is that Natalie Portman? She’s so young! She’s like, 12! Anyhow, let’s go ahead and talk about what makes this film great and talk about its weak spots if any. Let’s interpret the stars!

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PEOPLE SCORE – 10/10
Acting – 2|Characters – 2|Casting – 2|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 2

First up, we have the people category, which received a glamorous perfect score. The acting, unsurprisingly, was really good. When you have this type of dynamic, you can expect to see a lot of range in both of the leads especially, but it is also seen in other characters as well. Gary Oldman. What a performance. The characters are all very colorful and diverse, and a big part of what makes this film memorable are the characters, and I can say that even though this was my first time watching it. The casting all seemed perfect. They all felt like they were born for these roles, even though we’ve seen all of these actors in very different roles in the past. Every character plays his or her part in the plot, as well as having enough depth and development to exist in the first place. The chemistry is also pretty phenomenal, as it should be.

WRITING SCORE – 10/10
Dialogue – 2|Balance – 2|Story – 2|Originality – 2|Interesting – 2

Next up is the writing category, which also got a perfect score. It was evidently clear that the rich dialogue in the film played a monumental part in making this film memorable. Then again, so was practically everything else. It was a very well-balanced film that always kept its eye on the ball and never once made things too complicated or convoluted. The story is chock-full of metaphors and dynamics that are hard to ignore. Plus, the entire concept is very intriguing, very interesting, and fully original. This category deserved the score it got.

BTS SCORE – 9/10
Visuals – 2|Directing – 2|Editing – 1|Advertisement – 2|Music – 2

Next up, we have the stuff going on behind-the-scenes. Okay, so this was the first category not to get a perfect score. While it nearly got there, we have to ask ourselves what went wrong? Well, nothing really went wrong. If I had to be completely honest, I can’t really say the editing impressed me. It was totally fine, but absolutely nothing really stuck out for me there. Everything else works, though. I think every shot in this film looks phenomenal, the director did a really good job telling the story, it was as advertised, and I even think the music choices in this film were spot on. Everything about this category also screams near perfection.

NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 10/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 2|Falling Action – 2

Alright, we are now moving on to the narrative arc category, which is back to a perfect score. The introduction did its job. We were introduced to both Natalie Portman’s character, as well as Léon. We get to know each of them really well before the inciting incident, which is when her entire family is murdered and she begins hanging out with Léon – and ultimately when he starts training her in the ways of being an assassin. The obstacles really come down to the lessons he teaches her and her progress in finding the man that killed her family. The climax is a perfectly good example of a culmination of everything else, and the falling action did a great job at returning to a new norm. This was a perfect example of a narrative arc, through and through.

ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 5/10
Rewatchability – 2|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 0|Impulse/Talk – 0|Sucks you in – 1

Alright, so how entertaining is it? Truthfully, when movies are nearly perfect in the technical side of things, it’s sometimes harder to actually be entertaining, because they weren’t focused on that. They were focused on being perfect on a technical side, and they succeeded there. I wouldn’t necessarily call it super entertaining though. In some instances, absolutely, but not all the way. I would rewatch it, absolutely. I consider this really fun to just sit down and watch, and I even think it sucks you in during certain times…but I wouldn’t want to buy it, nor do I care to own it, and nor do I really care to talk about it. It’s not one of those films where you run up to a friend and say, “Dude, you gotta see this, you gotta. Right now. Drop what you’re doing and watch the movie!!!”…it’s just a movie that you should eventually watch…but there is no rush.

TOTAL SPECIAL – 50/50
Assassin Week – 10|Drama – 10|Thriller – 10|Aging – 10|Halfway Decent – 10

We are now onto the last five questions that I asked before seeing the film. First and foremost, it is assassin week, so how was this as an assassin film? Definitely one of the best ones there are in terms of assassin films, so I gave that full points. It is listed as both drama and thriller, so how was the drama? I would say the drama was pretty strong and the actors were able to keep that strength consistently. Is it thrilling? I would say absolutely, as well. Gary Oldman was able to keep things crazy and unpredictable, and for that reason, I give this full points as well. Finally, was it halfway decent? Well, it’s certainly an instantly memorable classic so I would say so, yeah.

TOTAL – 94/100

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