|Léon: The Professional|
|Directed by||Luc Besson|
|Produced by||Patrice Ledoux|
|Written by||Luc Besson|
|Music by||Éric Serra|
|Edited by||Sylvie Landra|
|Distributed by||Gaumont Buena Vista International|
|Box office||$46.1 million|
Léon: The Professional (French : Léon), titled Leon in the UK and Australia (and originally titled The Professional in the US), is a 1994 English-language French action-thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson. It stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman (in her film debut). The plot follows Léon (Reno), a professional hitman, who reluctantly takes in 12-year-old Mathilda (Portman), after her family is murdered by corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent Norman Stansfield (Oldman). Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the hitman's trade.
Léon is an Italian hitman (or "cleaner", as he refers to himself) living a solitary life in New York City's Little Italy working for a mafioso named "Old Tony".
One day, Léon meets Mathilda Lando, a lonely 12-year-old girl. Mathilda lives with her dysfunctional family in an apartment down the hall, and has stopped attending class at her school for troubled girls. Mathilda's abusive father attracts the ire of corrupt DEA agents, who have been paying him to stash cocaine in his apartment. After they discover he has been stealing the cocaine, DEA agents storm the building, led by sharply dressed drug addict Norman Stansfield. During the raid, Stansfield murders Mathilda's entire family while she is out shopping for groceries. When Mathilda returns, she realizes what has happened just in time to continue down the hall to Léon's apartment; he hesitantly gives her shelter.
Mathilda quickly discovers that Léon is a hitman. She begs him to take care of her and to teach her his skills, as she wants to avenge the murder of her four-year-old brother. At first, Léon is unsettled by her presence, and considers murdering her, but he eventually trains Mathilda and shows her how to use various weapons. In exchange, she runs his errands, cleans his apartment, and teaches him how to read. In time, the pair form a close bond. Mathilda looks up to Léon and quickly develops a crush on him, often telling him she loves him, but he refuses to reciprocate.
When Léon heads out for an apparent assignment, Mathilda fills a bag with guns from Léon's collection and sets out to kill Stansfield. She bluffs her way into the DEA office by posing as a delivery girl, only to be ambushed by Stansfield in a bathroom; one of his men arrives and announces that Léon had just killed Malky, one of the corrupt DEA agents, in Chinatown that morning. Léon, after discovering her plan in a note left for him, rescues Mathilda, killing two more of Stansfield's men in the process. An enraged Stansfield confronts Tony, who is violently interrogated for Léon's whereabouts.
As Mathilda and Léon recover from the ordeal, Léon tells her about how he became a cleaner; when Léon was young in Italy, he was in love with a girl from a wealthy family. The two made plans to elope, but when the girl's father discovered their relationship, he killed her out of anger and escaped justice. Léon killed the father out of revenge and fled to New York, where he met Tony and trained to become a cleaner.
Later, while Mathilda returns home from grocery shopping, a NYPD ESU team sent by Stansfield captures her and attempts to infiltrate Léon's apartment. Léon ambushes the ESU team and rescues Mathilda. Léon creates a quick escape for Mathilda by smashing a hole in an air shaft; he tells her to meet him at Tony's place in an hour, and tells her that he loves her, moments before the police blow up the apartment. In the chaos that follows, Léon sneaks out of the building disguised as a wounded ESU officer; he goes unnoticed except for Stansfield, who follows him and shoots him in the back. As he is dying, Léon places an object in Stansfield's hands that he says is "from Mathilda"; Stansfield discovers that it is a grenade pin. He then opens Léon's vest to find a cluster of active grenades, which promptly detonate, killing Stansfield.
Mathilda goes to Tony, as Léon had told her to do earlier. Mathilda tries to convince Tony to hire her in Léon's place, but Tony flatly refuses to hire a twelve-year-old, and tells Mathilda he had been instructed by Léon to give his money to her if anything happened to him. He gives Mathilda $100 from Leon's funds as an allowance, and sends her back to school, where the headmistress re-admits her after Mathilda reveals what had happened to her. She then walks onto a field near the school to plant Léon's houseplant, as she had told Léon that he should "give it roots".
Léon: The Professional is to some extent an expansion of an idea in Besson's earlier 1990 film, La Femme Nikita (in some countries Nikita). In La Femme Nikita, Jean Reno plays a similar character named Victor. Besson described Léon as "Now maybe Jean is playing the American cousin of Victor. This time he's more human."
While most of the interior footage was shot in France, the rest of the film was shot on location in New York City. The final scene at school was filmed at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
A soundtrack for the film was released in October 1994 by TriStar Music. It was commercially successful in Japan, being certified gold for 100,000 copies shipped in December 1999.
Léon: The Professional was released in France on 14 September 1994.The film was a commercial success, grossing over $45 million worldwide on a $16 million budget. It grossed 26.8 million French Franc ($5.1 million) in its opening week in France and was number one for three weeks. In France, it sold 3,330,703 tickets in total.
The film was originally released on VHS and LaserDisc. Sony Pictures first release on DVD titled as The Professional was on 24 February 1998 with the original U.S. theatrical cut.It debuted on Blu-ray in Germany by Kinowelt in 2008. A Léon special edition (2 cuts) Blu-ray Disc was released in the United Kingdom by Optimum Home Entertainment on 14 September 2009 with four special features including three featurettes "10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back", "Natalie Portman: Starting Young", "Jean Reno: The Road to Leon" and theatrical trailer. Sony Pictures released it in the United States in November 2009. Subsequently it was released a few times with a U.K. remastered Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD was issued by Studio Canal on 11 November 2019. It includes most of the special features combined from previous releases.
Léon: The Professional received positive reviews from critics. The film holds a 74% positive aggregate rating based on 65 critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6.91/10. The site's consensus states, "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".At Metacritic, the film received an average score of 64 based on 12 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".
Mark Salisbury of Empire magazine awarded the film a full five stars. He said, "Oozing style, wit and confidence from every sprocket, and offering a dizzyingly, fresh perspective on the Big Apple that only Besson could bring, this is, in a word, wonderful".Mark Deming at AllMovie awarded the film four stars out of five, describing it as "As visually stylish as it is graphically violent", and featuring "a strong performance from Jean Reno, a striking debut by Natalie Portman, and a love-it-or-hate-it, over-the-top turn by Gary Oldman". Richard Schickel of Time magazine lauded the film, writing, "this is a Cuisinart of a movie, mixing familiar yet disparate ingredients, making something odd, possibly distasteful, undeniably arresting out of them". He praised Oldman's performance as "divinely psychotic".
Roger Ebert awarded the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing: "It is a well-directed film, because Besson has a natural gift for plunging into drama with a charged-up visual style. And it is well acted." However, he was not entirely complimentary: "Always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action. ... In what is essentially an exercise—a slick urban thriller—it seems to exploit the youth of the girl without really dealing with it." ' Janet Maslin wrote, "The Professional is much too sentimental to sound shockingly amoral in the least. Even in a finale of extravagant violence, it manages to be maudlin ... Mr. Oldman expresses most of the film's sadism as well as many of its misguidedly poetic sentiments."The New York Times
Léon: The Professional won the Czech Lion Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – Foreign Feature. The film also received seven nominations at the 20th César Awards, for Best Film, Best Director for Besson, Best Actor for Reno, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound.
In the 2013 book, Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the '90s, Marc Spitz wrote that the film is "considered a cult classic".In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films; Léon: The Professional was listed at No. 42. The character Norman Stansfield has since been named as one of cinema's greatest villains.
The British band Alt-J released a song about the film, titled "Matilda" [sic]. The first line in the lyrics, "this is from Matilda", refer to Léon's last words to Stansfield, shortly before the grenades detonate and kills them.The Bollywood film Bichhoo was inspired by Léon: The Professional.
South Korean comedian Park Myeong-su and singer-songwriter IU released and performed a song inspired by the film, "Leon", for a bi-annual music festival of South Korea's highly popular variety show, Infinite Challenge , in 2015.
Besson wrote a script for a sequel, Mathilda, but filming was delayed until Portman was older. In the script, Mathilda was described as "older" and "more mature", and was working as a cleaner. However, in the meantime, Besson left Gaumont Film Company to start his own movie studio, EuropaCorp. Unhappy at Besson's departure, Gaumont Film Company "has held The Professional rights close to the vest – and will not budge".
In 2011, director Olivier Megaton told reporters that he and Besson used the script for Mathilda as the basis for Colombiana , a film about a young cleaner played by Zoe Saldana. Like Mathilda, her character goes to war with a drug cartel as revenge for the murder of her family when she was a child.
There is also an extended version of the film, referred to as "international version", "version longue", or "version intégrale". Containing 25 minutes of additional footage, it is sometimes called the "Director's Cut" but Besson refers to the original version as the Director's Cut and the new version as "The Long Version". According to Besson, this is the version he wanted to release, but for the fact that the extra scenes tested poorly with Los Angeles preview audiences. The additional material is found in the film's second act, and it depicts more of the interactions and relationship between Léon and Mathilda, as well as explicitly demonstrating how Mathilda accompanies Léon on several of his hits as "a full co-conspirator", to further her training as a contracted killer.
The extended version of Léon was shown as "version longue" in French cinemas in 1996, and then released on VHS. It was subsequently released as "version intégrale" on LaserDisc and later Region 2 DVD in Japan. It appeared as the "international version" on Region 1 DVD in North America in 2000, and was re-issued in 2005. It was first released in the United Kingdom in 2009 as the "Director's Cut".
Juan Moreno y Herrera–Jiménez, known as Jean Reno, is a French actor. He has worked in French, English, Japanese, Spanish and Italian productions; Reno appeared in films such as Crimson Rivers, Godzilla, The Da Vinci Code, Mission: Impossible, The Pink Panther, Ronin, Les Visiteurs, Wasabi, The Big Blue, Hector and the Search for Happiness and Léon: The Professional.
Natalie Portman is an Israeli-born American actress, director and producer. Prolific in film since a teenager, she has starred in blockbusters and also played psychologically troubled women in independent films, for which she has received various accolades, including an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards.
Luc Paul Maurice Besson is a French film director, screenwriter, and producer. He directed or produced the films Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988), and La Femme Nikita (1990). Besson is associated with the Cinéma du look film movement. He has been nominated for a César Award for Best Director and Best Picture for his films Léon: The Professional and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. He won Best Director and Best French Director for his sci-fi action film The Fifth Element (1997). He wrote and directed the 2014 sci-fi action film Lucy and the 2017 space opera film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
The Big Blue is a 1988 film in the French Cinéma du look visual style, made by French director Luc Besson. The film is a heavily fictionalized and dramatized story of the friendship and sporting rivalry between two leading contemporary champion free divers in the 20th century: Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, and Mayol's fictionalized relationship with his girlfriend Johana Baker.
The Fifth Element is a 1997 English-language French science fiction action film directed and co-written by Luc Besson. It stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich. Primarily set in the 23rd century, the film's central plot involves the survival of planet Earth, which becomes the responsibility of Korben Dallas (Willis), a taxicab driver and former special forces major, after a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his cab. To accomplish this, Dallas joins forces with her to recover four mystical stones essential for the defence of Earth against the impending attack of a malevolent cosmic entity.
Gary Leonard Oldman is an English actor and filmmaker. Regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation, he is known for his versatility and intense acting style. He has received several accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and three British Academy Film Awards. His films have grossed over $11 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing actors to date.
Gloria is a 1980 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by John Cassavetes. It tells the story of a gangster's girlfriend who goes on the run with a young boy who is being hunted by the mob for information he may or may not have. It stars Gena Rowlands, Julie Carmen, Buck Henry, and John Adames.
La Femme Nikita, also called Nikita, is a 1990 action thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson. The film stars Anne Parillaud as the title character, a teen criminal who is handed a life sentence for murdering policemen during an armed pharmacy robbery. Her government handlers fake her death and recruit her as a professional assassin. After intense training, she starts a career as a talented killer, where she struggles to balance her work with her personal life. Her career progresses until a mission in an embassy goes awry.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is a 1999 English-language French epic historical drama film directed by Luc Besson. The film stars Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway and Dustin Hoffman. The screenplay was written by Besson and Andrew Birkin, and the original music score was composed by Éric Serra.
Norman Stansfield is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of Luc Besson's 1994 film Léon: The Professional. Portrayed by Gary Oldman, the corrupt and mentally unhinged Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent has been named as one of cinema's greatest villains. In recognition of its influence, MSN Movies described the Stansfield character as "the role that launched a thousand villains".
Nil by Mouth is a 1997 drama film portraying a family of characters living in South East London. It was Gary Oldman's debut as a writer and director, and was produced by Oldman, Douglas Urbanski and Luc Besson. It stars Ray Winstone as Raymond, the abusive husband of Valerie played by Kathy Burke.
Bichhoo (transl. Scorpion) is a 2000 Indian action thriller film starring Bobby Deol and Rani Mukerji. Bichhoo is a remake of the 1994 English-language French action thriller film Léon: The Professional.
Willi One Blood is a reggae singer and actor, formerly New York-based and now in Miami. He is best known for the song "Whiney Whiney ", from the soundtrack album of 1994 film Dumb and Dumber, which peaked at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Maïwenn Le Besco, known mononymously as Maïwenn, is a French actress and filmmaker.
Subway is a 1985 French thriller film directed by Luc Besson and starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert. The film is classified as part of the cinema du look movement.
Suriya Paarvai is a 1999 Tamil action crime film directed by Jagan. The film features Arjun and newcomer Pooja in lead roles. The film, produced by Sreenivas Prasad, had musical score by S. A. Rajkumar and was released on 14 January 1999 to negative reviews. The film is heavily inspired by the Luc Besson 1994 film Léon: The Professional. The film was dubbed in Telugu as Hello Friend with a comedy track re-shot with Telugu actors.
Natalie Portman is an actress and filmmaker with dual Israeli and American citizenship. She made her film debut in Luc Besson's action thriller Léon: The Professional, which starred her as the young protégée of a hitman. She followed this by appearing in Michael Mann's crime thriller Heat (1995), Ted Demme's romantic comedy Beautiful Girls (1996), and Tim Burton's science fiction comedy Mars Attacks! (1996). Three years later, her supporting role as the precocious, responsible daughter of a narcissistic mother played by Susan Sarandon in the drama Anywhere but Here earned Portman her first Golden Globe Award nomination. In the same year, Portman played Padmé Amidala in the first of the Star Wars prequel trilogyStar Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace which brought her international recognition. She reprised the role in its sequels Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).
The Family is a 2013 black comedy crime film co-written and directed by Luc Besson, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, and John D'Leo. The film follows a Mafia family in the witness protection program who want to change their lives. The film is based on the French novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista.
Lucy is a 2014 French science fiction action film written and directed by Luc Besson and produced by his wife Virginie Besson-Silla for his company EuropaCorp. It is an English-language film shot in Taipei, Paris, and New York City. It stars Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, and Amr Waked. Johansson portrays the titular character, a woman who gains psychokinetic abilities when a nootropic, psychedelic drug is absorbed into her bloodstream.
Anna is a 2019 action thriller film written, produced and directed by Luc Besson. The film stars Sasha Luss as the eponymous assassin, alongside Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, and Alexander Petrov.
The film, a campy, stylish, ultraviolent tale about a solitary hit man (Jean Reno) and the little girl he grows to love, is called The Professional in America, Léon everywhere else. Natalie Portman was the girl, Matilda. It's now considered a cult classic.
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