96. Léon: The Professional (1994)
Leonard Maltin's Rating :
Should be :
IMDB Rating : 8.6
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 94%
Rotten Tomato Consensus: "Pivoting on the unusual relationship between seasoned hitman and his 12-year-old apprentice -- a breakout turn by young Natalie Portman -- Luc Besson's Léon is a stylish and oddly affecting thriller."
Leonard says in his review : "Well-documented US release for Frenchman Besson suffers from overly familiar, artificial situations and a bizarre, scenery-chewing performace from Oldman."
The movie opens up with Leon (Jean Reno) getting a contract from Tony (Danny Aiello). Leon drinks milk and we can see the reflection of Tony in his small, round sunglasses. The movie had me in the first two minutes.
Leon comes back from the job and sees his talks to twelve year old Mathilda (Natalie Portman in her first role). Mathilda's lives with a seriously dysfunctional family and her father is involved with drug dealers and whacks her around. Leon sees what is going on but stays out of it.
Some drug dealers that Mathilda's father cheated, led by Stansfield (Gary Oldman), come to their apartment and start shooting it up. Suddenly Mathilde is without a family, and Leon takes her in. Mathilda isn't too upset about losing her family except for her four year old brother who she was very close too. Leon tells Mathilde that she will have to leave after breakfast, but Mathilde tells him she wants to be a cleaner (hit man).
Leon and Mathilde make a real odd couple, but they are interesting and charismatic. Leon starts teaching Mathilde the tricks of the trade. Mathilde works on Leon's reading and writing with him. One of the most important things they do is take care of Leon's best friend, his plant.
Mathilde tells the hotel manager that Leon is not her father but is her lover, and they have to find a new place. Mathilde then finds out that Stansfield is a cop. Mathilde then decises to visit the Psycho cop, Stansfield, at his office. She leaves a note for Leon, and he comes after her and saves her.
Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello and Gary Oldman were all great to watch in this comic book toned movie. Every time one of them was on the screen, which was for 95% of the movie, you were drawn to the characters they portrayed. There wasn't a dull moment in the whole movie.
Leonard the Professional has made a big mistake with this rating. His book is supposed to tell people if they will enjoy a movie, not if Leonard himself enjoyed it. People really like this film. It is ranked 31st in the IMDB list of Top 250 movies. There is no way that this great movie deserves a 2 star rating.