Cinophile: The Professional

3 min read
11

So much can change in twenty years. Today Natalie Portman is Luke Skywalker’s mom, Luc Besson keeps expanding Liam Neeson’s very particular set of skills, Jean Reno is Inspector Clouseau’s sidekick and Gary Oldman keeps the face of Gotham PD honest. But turn back the clock and they came together for arguably the best assassin-genre movie ever…

aa
The Professional nearly wasn’t made. Director Luc Besson had to pause production of The Fifth Element due to Bruce Willis’ schedule. In the haitus he wrote a script in a month and shot Leon’s story over the next three. 

Living in New York, an assassin called Leon does jobs for a local crime kingpin. Next door to his lonely apartment lives a family in trouble with local thugs after a drug package comes up short. The situation is settled violently but one of the family, a girl named Mathilda, avoids the killers and takes refuge with the assassin. This starts a rollercoaster that will change their lives forever, especially that of hermit-like Leon.

aa
Natalie Portman initially did not get the role of Mathilda due to being too young. But a second audition got her the role. Yet she only joined once the production agreed to several rules from her parents around her smoking scenes, including that the character quit the habit.

This might sound like a strange story about the unlikely friendship between a young, lost girl and an older, equally lost man. The director’s cut certainly steers this very close to a romance, though one shouldn’t confuse The Professional as a sexual taboo study similar to Lolita or Hard Candy. The companionship between the two characters is instead to give Leon some humanity, which is then countered perfectly with Gary Oldman’s Stansfield, one of film’s greatest villains. Or maybe it is all about this bizarre companionship – this is very much a European film – and Oldman’s brilliant psychopath just makes the audience forget to be uncomfortable. Or maybe everyone just remembers THAT scene in the finale, the most awesome blaze of glory moment ever.

aa
Famous for his method acting, Gary Oldman apparently kept creeping out the cast and crew. Michael Badalucco, who played Mathilda’s father, said he felt genuinely uncomfortable while shooting his confrontation scene with the psychotic Stansfield. 

At its heart The Professional is an action film. The opening sequence, where Leon executes an entire room of mobsters, kicks a ball that snowballs into the unforgettable siege on his apartment. Along the way Reno quaffs milk, Portman dresses up and Oldman pops pills on Beethoven. Everyone went on to do more great things, but they definitely get a warm feeling for being part of what some consider the cinematic event of the Nineties.

 

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: January 6, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

Check Also

Cinophile: MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

[column size=one_half position=first ] Many have adapted the myth of King Arthur into movi…