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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘Léon: The Professional’: The Evocative Tale of a Young Girl Safeguarded by a Professional Hitman

Movie poster for the film Léon: The Professional starring Jean Reno and Natalie Portman

“Léon: The Professional” (aka “Léon”) is a dynamic and highly emotive thriller from 1994 that stars Natalie Portman as 12 year-old Mathilda, a lonely young girl who comes under the protection of Léon (Jean Reno), a tenacious and entirely forthright professional killer.

Residing in the New York City’s Little Italy, Mathilda lives a life of abject neglect—overlooked and scorned by her family including an abusive father who shelters caches of drugs for corrupt DEA agents. When a cadre of drug enforcement officers, led by the ferocious Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman), arrive to confront Mathilda’s father—she is forced to implore her neighbor Léon for desperate safe passage. Under his protection, she will not only come to recognize and appreciate his true profession, but develop an unwavering camaraderie with the elder Frenchman. Ultimately their unlikely partnership sets them on a path of explosive vengeance—the villainous Stansfield at the very center of their darkest intentions.

Written and directed by French Filmmaker Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita”, “The Fifth Element”), “Léon” is a emotionally dense thrill-ride, highlighted by resoundingly impassioned performances from both Portman and Reno. Their alliance and the bristling tensions between the two of them underscore a volatile and propulsive storyline peppered with dark humor and high-touch stylings. His first English-language film, Besson employs shades of the celebrated French “Cinéma du Look” movement in delivering this slick and visually evocative tale to life—a galvanizing and enormously entertaining modern masterpiece.


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