“Léon: The Professional” is a twisted and gory thriller with an unexpected love story. First released in November 1994, it stars Jean Reno as Léon the hitman, and a young Natalie Portman as 12-year old Mathilda.
Léon is a professional hitman and extremely skilled at fighting. Mathilda has a troubled and abusive family, as she is first introduced smoking a cigarette while hiding from them. Both live in the same apartment complex. As she goes to the grocery store for milk, Mathilda’s entire family is brutally murdered by Stansfield and his crew — including her innocent baby brother. Devastated and petrified, she pleads to stay with Léon, and so he empathetically takes her in.
After learning of Léon’s career as a hitman, Mathilda is extremely eager to work with and learn from him. Léon is hesitant, even debates killing her at first, but ultimately feels responsible for her. So, he trains her.
They play a really funny game of charades and Mathilda dresses up as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe. And in another scene, as Léon is watering his potted plant, she tells him that he should plant it outdoors in the park so it has roots, and also teases that he should be watering her if he wants her to grow. And then they get into a silly fight throwing water at each other.
Later, Mathilda blissfully tells Léon that she is falling in love with him. But he immediately shuts her down.
Mathilda sneaks into the crime scene of her old home to grab a stuffed animal. There, she finds a load of cash and keeps it for herself. She overhears Stansfield being questioned about the murder, who denies everything and storms off in a rage. Mathilda follows him by bribing a taxi driver with some of the money. He goes to the D.E.A.
Eventually caught, Stansfield corners her in the bathroom for a terror-stricken confrontation. Suddenly, someone runs in to inform Stansfield that one of his guys has been killed, that he thinks “it’s personal” — of course it was Léon.
A team comes in and holds Mathilda hostage as they raid Léon’s apartment and attempt to shoot him dead, but he is one step ahead and overtakes them. Mathilda refuses to go, however he insists she leaves. He says “I love you Mathilda,” and she says, “I love you too, Léon,” before leaving.
Just before Léon is about to get away, he’s shot by Stansfield. Hardly still alive, with what little remains of his strength, he hands something over to Stansfield saying “this is from Mathilda,” and he opens his jacket to reveal a bomb — thus blowing up the entire building!
In the end, Mathilda asks to come back to school and comes clean about all that has happened to her. In the backyard, she plants Léon’s plant in his honor.
Léon’s character is very serious and dry but also hilarious at unlikely times. Mathilda is tremendously determined and daring. And both of them are adrenaline junkies.
This is an exhilarating, suspenseful film that I would highly recommend. It seriously reals you in, leaving you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next…