Double Impact Presents ‘Léon: The Professional’ (1994)

From the cinephiliac minds of Sailor Monsoon and Vincent Kane comes a new collaborative review series called Double Impact! For these opinion pieces, we watch a film, break it down and analyze it and then haphazardly try and attribute points and awards to individual scenes and/or actors. Through our convoluted thought process, neither one of us truly understands, we will definitively determine whether or not certain sacred cows are worthy of praise and alternatively if childhood favorites hold up or are better left in the past. The goal is to get you to rewatch old films you love, check out great stuff you haven’t and skip the overrated classics you’ve heard about but never got around to. This is a celebration of the stuff we love and a take-down of the shit we don’t. This is Double Impact!


SAILOR’S PICK

PLOT

Léon: The Professional (sometimes called The Professional, other times just called Léon) 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 corrupted 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.

MINI IMPACT REVIEW

Sailor: I honestly don’t remember the first time I saw this but it was one of the DVDs I always remember seeing at Blockbuster. The cover, for whatever reason, stuck out to me and while I never rented it, that image burned itself into my memory. Léon’s scraggly beard is as indelible an image to me as the Pulp Fiction and Boondock Saints posters or the Ghoulies VHS cover. It’s one of the things I most associate with video rental stores, which I miss with a passion.

Kane: I remember watching this the first time back in 1994 and instantly realizing I was watching a different kind of action movie. I was expecting the shoot em up Stallone and Arnie type films but what we got were some incredible performances and storytelling. Gary Oldman became one of my favorite actors and Natalie Portman’s career would be someone I would want to keep up with going forward. Combine that with the thrilling action when it does hit and you have a masterpiece.

IMPACT SCENES 

Sailor: It’s either the massacre of the family, teaching Portman to snipe or the assault at the end. My mind is telling me that the family massacre is the better directed scene.

Kane: That’s because it is. The assault at the end might be the best known but the family massacre IS the film. It sets everything up and shows off the greatness that is Gary Oldman.

Sailor: But shouldn’t the best scene involve the main character? It’s like the only scene in the film that doesn’t involve either Léon or Mathilda.

Kane: But Stansfield…

Sailor: Family massacre it is!

Stansfield sniffs a guy     Mathilda’s sniper training     Mathilda vs Stansfield     Everyone!

THE IMPACT PLAYER

Kane: So who won the movie?

Sailor: Portman

Kane: Not Oldman?

Sailor: You can find another crazy actor to play that part. Michael Keaton could’ve done it or a million others but a truly great kid actor performance comes along once in a blue moon.

Kane: This is true. Portman is so damn good and she was like 11 or 12 at the time.

Sailor: Her performance is the glue that holds it all together.

THE CHEWER (Scene Stealer)

Sailor: It’s obviously Danny Aiello. If Aiello is in a movie, it instantly becomes his movie while he’s on screen.

Kane: I can’t argue with that.

Sailor: He also kinda wins by default.

Kane: True.

IMPACT QUOTES

Is life always this hard, or is it just when you’re a kid?

EVERYONE!

That’s good. Because I take no pleasure in taking life if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.

I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven.

You don’t like Beethoven.

I AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THIS MICKEY MOUSE BULLSHIT!

WHAT AGED THE WORST?

Sailor: I can’t really think of anything.

Kane: You mean like Léon and Mathilda’s weird relationship?

Sailor: Oh yeah

Kane: No way that happens today. Not without massive controversy at least.

Sailor: I get it and it doesn’t bother me but that’s the first to go in a remake.

Kane: Agreed. I know it’s innocent on Léon’s part at least but yeah, it ain’t flyin today.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Kane: What pill is Stansfield poppin?

Sailor: That’s a great question. I have no idea and I don’t think there is one.

Kane: I don’t know drugs and their effects on people. So if you don’t know then we got nothing.

Kane: Does Mathilda become a hitman? hitwoman? hitperson?

Sailor: Well, the film Colombiana was supposed to be about her all grown up but when Portman passed on the project, they reworked it. So I’mma say yes.

Kane: Yeah I’m thinking yes too.

Sailor: I don’t want to see a movie but I’d like to see a graphic novel

Kane: How many hitwoman movies actually work? Or are successful?

Sailor: Hmmm. Not many I reckon. Atomic Blonde?

Kane: I didn’t like it

Sailor: I still haven’t seen it

Kane: It’s boring

REMAKE RECASTING

Sailor: It’s gotta be Denis Lavant for Leon

Kane: I can see that. Or Vincent Cassell.

Sailor:  He was the first one to pop into my head but I can’t see him playing a simpleton. A cold-blooded killer? Absolutely. But Léon is a dummy.

Kane: That’s true.

Sailor: I’m also picturing a black girl for Matilda.

Kane: She still 11 or 12?

Sailor: Yes. She’s gotta be young.

Kane: I don’t know any young black girl actresses.

Kane: The girl from Us did well.

Sailor: Lock her in.

Kane: Stansfield is the hardest. Oscar Isaac popped in my head first. He can be weird and intense.

Sailor: Michael Shannon popped into mine first. Denzel?

Kane: He already played a corrupt cop.

Sailor: That’s true.

Sailor: Billy Bob Thornton?

Kane: A retired Stansfield, sure.

Sailor: Adam Driver?

Kane: As Léon?

Sailor: OooOOOooo. I like that.

Kane: And then we can have Phoenix as Stansfield.

Sailor: Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Kane: What?

Sailor: Goddamn it Kane.

THE CAST

Director: John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless)

Leon: Adam Driver (Marriage Story, Blackkklansman)

Stansfield: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker, I Walk the Line)

Mathilda: Madison Curry (Us)

Tony: Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant)

IMPACT RATING

Sailor: Whatchu giving it?

Kane: A perfect score. So 10 outta 10 or A+ or whatever.

Sailor: That is correct. I not only think it’s perfect but I’d put it in the top 30 of the decade. It’s as essential to the 90s as Pulp Fiction to me.

Kane: Agreed. Too bad Besson didn’t have the same career.

Sailor: Few directors do.

Kane: Unfortunately.

COMMENTS OUT OF CONTEXT

You can fuck on outta here with that shit!

I had such a crush on Natalie.

I find this entire scene ironic considering Oldman played Beethoven like a year later.

This scene is cute but you know goddamn well Léon fucked that oven mitt.

I love how not cool Léon is. He looks like an awkward puppet. 

This scene is cute but you know goddamn well Léon fucked that plant.


What is your impression of Leon: The Professional? Let us know some of your picks for the different categories like the Impact Player, best scene and who you would cast for a remake down in the comments.