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The Professional

My cat just got back from his second round of hospitalization, and I'm watching over him with the hawk eyes of a worried mama. He's got some behavior that's concerning me, but the vet's closed until morning and I don't think it's ER level concerns. Sooooo I need something absorbing and distracting to watch. For me, that usually means dark and violent. The Professional fits the bill.

It's been ages since I've seen this gem. It's one that's always stayed in my mind as the definition of awesome, but for whatever reason always gets passed over. It's just such an intense and compelling (I realize that's a word I've overused lately) story. Leon is an assassin, and the best there is at what he does. Very calculated, precise, and ruthless. He unexpectedly (and a bit against his will) takes in a young neighbor girl whose family has been killed. The neighbor girl discovers his occupation and begs him to train her so she can avenge her family.

Leon is just such an incredible character. Normally, when you have an assassin type, the focus is on the action not the drama. But here we get to see inside the man a bit more, which doesn't mean he loses his edge one bit. The first scene where we meet him (with the surprise knife attack in the closet) you know you are dealing with one of the baddest mother \m/ you have ever seen. What really makes this film stand out though is the contrast of the cold hard Leon and the wide eyed innocense of Mathilda, played by a bite size future Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, with awful 90s hair. Yet Mathilda isn't quite as innocent as she seems. She's seen things. She knows the world is a dark and difficult place. Her naivity is in believing how easily she thinks she can turn it around. She puts such trust in Leon and works so hard to put on a tough face and work towards her vengeance, if only to keep from allowing herself to feel the pain she's going through. Portman's performance (especially at such a young age, in her film debut) is beyond impressive.


IMDB trivia is telling me that Jean Reno decided to play Leon as a bit mentally slow, just to be sure tha audiences didn't think he would even conceive of taking advantage of Mathilda. I never picked up on it, but watching the scene at his breakfast table after her parents died, I completely see it.

Huh. I had just been thinking that the way Leon's character is handled is very similar to The Transporter. The whole character angle. Turns out, Luc Besson is responsible for both. And for a brief moment in time, my world makes sense.
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