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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Drama > Comedy > Leon: The Professional (aka Léon/1994/Sony Blu-ray)

Leon: The Professional (aka Léon/1994/Sony Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Film: C+/C-



Luc Besson is one of the worst filmmakers in major commercial cinema and his influence has done more damage than good in almost every film he has had his hands on.  That may sound like quite the overgeneralization, but his work is that overrated and even obnoxious.  Le Femme Nikita, The Big Blue, The Fifth Element and Joan Of Arc are some of the most overproduced and predictable films in the last few decades.  By default, Leon: The Professional is his best film to date and not my much.  Now on Blu-ray, you can compare the hit short version to the longer extended cut.


In its hit version, it offers everything that makes Besson pretentious and constipated: predictability, formula, odd handling of sexuality, constant parade of clichés, a distain for U.S. cinema and maybe the U.S. despite constantly ripping it off, smugness, an unreality where no one talks or acts like this in real life and even a strange use of children (and all praise for a young Natalie Portman, deserving as it might be, was used to overshadow this aspect).  Yes, he hates what he wants to be like.


However, what he wants to be like is always recycled and second-rate.  Here, an old assassin good at his job (Jean Reno) takes residence in an apartment building where a young girl (Portman) is on the lowest rung of an abusive family.  Abused verbally and even physically by her father, mother and older sister, she is stuck, but her father has made the mistake of being involved with a crazed drug kingpin Stansfield (Gary Oldman in one of his few overrated roles) who loves to kill.  Both live on the same floor when Stansfield decides to indulge in bloodshed and the story tries to take off.  This includes Reno’s title character teaching young Mathilda how to kill!


The shorter version is particularly shrill in Besson’s usual manner, but the longer version actually has a rare item in his many cookie-cutter features: character development.  There is actually some semblance of a good film in the longer cut, yet I have run into more than a few fans of the shorter version who dislike this one showing the kind of dumbed-down audience Besson relied on to be a success to begin with.  Despite the many problems here in either cut, this is the peak of Besson’s work because he will never (try to) work this hard again.  Note he is more active as a producer, which speaks volumes about his ambition and love of film, what little there is.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image looks pretty good for its age and part of the reason is because it was shot with real anamorphic lenses, Technovision in this case.  Though not flawless, there are some good demo shots here, while some others are too soft and most are within the picture rating above.  Director of Photography Thierry Arbogast has lensed all the Besson-directed films and the look always is slightly stylized in an oddly-lit way that did not help Catwoman (2004), Femme Fatale (2002) and the mixed Babylon, A.D. (2008).  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix is not bad throughout, though some of the sound shows its age.  Otherwise, there are some fine surround moments, the recording is not bad and the soundfield is consistent, though limited.  Eric Serra’s score is a mixed bag.


Extras include BD Live interactive functions, a fact track for the extended version and two making of featurettes: Jean Reno: The Road To Leon and Natalie Portman: Starting Young.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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