Not only do I have a regrettably mountainous to-be-read pile of books, I'm afraid I've also failed to catch up on plenty of films - not to mention box sets. So I'm making an effort to catch up, and as part of this (perhaps ultimately doomed) project, I recently watched Leon, a film also known as The Professional. It dates from 1994, and you can get an idea of how long I've been meaning to get round to watch it when I tell you that I acquired my copy not as a DVD but as a VHS cassette: eeeek! De-clutteriing is definitely called for...
Anyway, I must say how much I enjoyed the film. The other day I also found an old video of Mission Impossible, starring Tom Cruise, and found it very disappointing - Leon more than made up for it. It's set in the US, but directed by France's :Luc Besson. and it marked the film debut of Natalie Portman. She gives a brilliant performance. A good many child actors, of course, never make it in the long run, but she is a dazzling exception.
Leon, played by Jean Reno, is a naive, poorly educated immigrant who has been exploited by a gangster called Tony, who uses his services as a hitman, but cons him financially. Leon lives in a rather miserable apartment, but he is a very, very efficient hitman. He befriends a 12 year old neighbour called Matilda, whose father is involved in a drugs scam. When her father and the rest of her family are murdered by a sinister group of thugs led by a psychotic played by Gary Oldman, she hides out in Leon's flat.
Soon, the pair become close. I suppose that, twenty-one years later, this relationship between a grown man and a young girl might be presented in a different way, but the screenplay, although violent, does have several poignant moments. Reno is very good - so too is Oldman - but it's Portman who steals the show. A gripping story, and I'm glad I finally caught up with it.