After trying to convince my housemate with words that he would be turned on by Natalie Portman even if she were 12, I decided to just show him Léon. Because of the Natalie Portman thing, but also because this movie defines the term “badass”. She plays Mathilda, a foul-mouthed, quick-on-her-feet, surprisingly mature 12-year-old girl whose entire family is murdered by drug dealer Stansfield (Gary Oldman).
She goes to her quiet neighbor Léon (Jean Reno) for sanctuary, and upon finding out he is a professional assassin, coerces her way into becoming his apprentice with hopes of taking revenge. Unfortunately Stansfield is very powerful, and even the deadliest assassin might not be able to take him. There are a couple montages of Mathilda learning things and hanging out with Léon. There is a lot of violence. There is some squirmishness from the viewers as we all try to deny our attraction to very-underage Natalie Portman. It has everything you could ever want in a romantic action movie.
Léon has some wonderful action scenes, and such a generally awesome and endearing title character that anyone should enjoy watching him do his thing. He’s a killer, but not for sadistic or cynical reasons. He has a strict physical and moral code. Mathilda has had to grow up very fast, and often you forget how old she is due to her way of speaking and clear-headedness. But there are flashes of innocence throughout the movie to remind everyone that she is probably too young to deal with what she is currently forced to deal with. Their relationship is an important but ambiguous subject. It is clearly deeper than that of a mentor-student or father-daughter, but Léon knows it can never be more than that, despite Mathilda’s exterior maturity. It’s a really interesting situation. Otherwise, it’s just a kickass film with excellent performances all around, including Gary Oldman being totally ca-razy!