Léon: The Professional (1994)

Léon: The Professional (1994) - Natalie Portman

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Léon Montana (Jean Reno) is an Italian hitman (or “cleaner”, as he refers to himself) living a solitary life in New York City’s Little Italy. His work comes from a mafioso named Tony (Danny Aiello). Léon spends his idle time engaging in calisthenics, nurturing a houseplant, and watching old films.

One day, Léon meets Mathilda Lando (Natalie Portman), a lonely twelve-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 (Michael Badalucco) attracts the ire of corrupt DEA agents, who have been paying him to stash cocaine in his apartment.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

After they discover he has been cutting the cocaine to keep for himself, DEA agents storm the building, led by sharply dressed drug addict Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). During the raid, Stansfield quickly becomes unhinged and 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, who 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, 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 often tells Léon she is in love with him, but he refuses to reciprocate.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

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 one of the corrupt DEA agents in Chinatown that morning. Léon, after discovering her plan in a note left for him, rescues Mathilda, shooting two more of Stansfield’s men in the process. An enraged Stansfield confronts Tony, who is interrogated for Léon’s whereabouts.

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 then reassures her, tells her that he loves her, and thanks her for giving him “a taste for life”, moments before the police blow up the apartment.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

In the chaos that follows, Léon sneaks out of the building disguised as a wounded ESU officer; he goes unnoticed save 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” before succumbing to his wounds; Stansfield discovers that it is a grenade pin. He then opens Léon’s vest to find a cluster of active grenades, which detonates and kills him.

Léon: The Professional (French: Léon; also known as The Professional) is a 1994 English-language French thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson. It stars Jean Reno and Gary Oldman, and features the motion picture debut of Natalie Portman. In the film, Léon (Jean Reno), a professional hitman, reluctantly takes in 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie 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: The Professional Movie Poster (1994)

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Peter Appel, Willi One Blood, Don Creech, Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Regen, Lucius Wyatt Cherokee
Screenplay by: Luc Besson
Production Design by: Dan Weil
Cinematography by: Thierry Arbogast
Film Editing by: Sylvie Landra
Costume Design by: Magali Guidasci
Set Decoration by: Françoise Benoît-Fresco
Art Direction by: Gerard Drolon
Music by: Éric Serra
MPAA Rating: R for scenes of strong graphic violence, and for language.
Distributed by: Gaumont, Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date: September 14, 1994