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…
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.
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.
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