I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Leon (aka The Professional)

tn_leonThese days Luc Besson is mostly thought of as a producer of action movies (DISTRICT B13, TAKEN, THE TRANSPORTER, UNLEASHED). But man, there was a time there a while back when his heart was in being a writer/director, and LEON aka THE PROFESSIONAL is a hell of a good action movie he did.

The year was 1994 and American crime movies were having sort of a resurgence. Young men with movie cameras were reading the Psalms of John Woo and rediscovering the joys of onscreen bullet discharge. It was the year of KILLING ZOE, THE LAST SEDUCTION, FRESH, the Alec Baldwin version of THE GETAWAY and of course DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH.

Oh yeah, and PULP FICTION. Tarantino also had his script turned into NATURAL BORN KILLERS that year, and TRUE ROMANCE the year before. Most of the attention justifiably went to him, and he took any chance he could get to wax on about his influences in Hong Kong cinema and the French New Wave and whatever else he was talking up back then. But coming along on this same cultural wave was Frenchman Besson, who had his own type of international sensibilites (which is how over the years he ended up producing English language movies for French directors starring Jet Li or Jason Statham or even Bruce Willis, having his finger in importing Tony Jaa, exporting parkour. Bringing the different parts of the world closer together.

(Hey, this is weird – Besson was a producer on THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA and I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS. I did not know that.)

mp_leonSo LEON is I think his version of an American action/crime movie. It even opens with a camera flying over the water toward New York, as if saying “Follow me, countrymen, to a magical land where the mafia does battle.” It zeroes in in on New York, into LIttle Italy, into this specific building where Danny Aiello is meeting with the elite hitman Leon (Jean Reno).

Leon accepts the job of assassinating a crime boss who’s been fucking up. We don’t see Leon clearly yet, he’s a mysterious presence, but he doesn’t mind giving his prey forewarning by letting the doorman call upstairs to them. Now they know he’s out there, they’re looking for him, waiting for him to arrive. They watch the lights on the elevator the way the Colonial Marines in ALIENS watch their meters as the aliens get closer.

I think Besson is sometimes considered schlocky now, but this is not the work of a schlocky director. This is the work of a guy who loves storytelling. He gives his guy a great entrance, he makes him mythic, he develops suspense, and alot of this he does through visual style, moving the camera around methodically to tell you this guy is over here, this guy is down here, soon they will meet and bullets will fly.

On the job Leon works like Batman, appearing and disappearing from shadows, hanging upside down from the ceiling, making his enemies quiver in fear. His Batman even has a Joker, but he looks like Commissioner Gordon. Gary Oldman plays Stansfield, the maniacal, pill-popping thug who leads a crew in gunning down an entire family and then (SPOILER) turns out to be a cop. It’s a classic piece of mega-acting. I hadn’t seen this in years and remembered him being over-the-top alot more than he actually is, but the character has a few scenes where he goes into such overload that there oughta be sparks popping off his brain out his nostrils. His eyes turn Nic Cage, he screams, he plays air piano. My favorite Gary Oldman moment is the overhead shot of him cracking his neck and shoulders as he enjoys his pills. It seems like he’s making a transformation into a bizarre lizardman or something.

But back to Leon. With his sunglasses on he obviously means business. He terrifies hardened criminals into compliance. But on his own he’s a goofball. He watches Gene Kelly movies with a look of little boy joy on his face. He doesn’t like swearing or smoking, and usually doesn’t drink alcohol, but always a glass of milk. He owns an oven mitt made to look like a pig. But that’s not his badass juxtaposition – I think that would be the potted plant that he carries with him every time he has to move to another hotel. It’s like it’s his pet.

Leon lives in the same apartment building as Mathilda, played by 12 year old rookie and now Academy Award winner Natalie Portman (R-Naboo). She’s a tiny little girl with a hip hair do (similar to Uma Thurman in PULP FICTION) who smokes cigarettes, talks tough and happens to be out buying milk when Stansfield guns down the aforementioned family – hers. She knocks on Leon’s door and he lets her in, saving her life. When she finds out his line of work she wants to hire him to avenge the death of her little brother (not the rest of the family, who she doesn’t give a shit about). She can’t afford him though so instead she starts working for him, like how you wash the dishes to pay for the food you couldn’t afford.

So it’s a sweet story about a hitman teaching a little orphan girl how to murder people. Okay, now that I’m typing it out I realize it’s kind of creepy. Try not to think about the DC sniper while you watch it.

Now days a little girl with a gun would be used for easy laughs (see KICK-ASS) but it’s got kind of a tragic feel here. Yes, we root for her to get violent revenge, yes, it’s kind of cute that little Natalie (who does not appear to have grown up on the streets or anything) smokes and tries to talk tough. But she’s obviously kind of broken. It’s upsetting.

I saw this movie many years ago and I remember liking it, but I didn’t remember how childlike this Leon is. Watching it this time I had to wonder is he supposed to be mildly retarded? Or maybe autistic? He’s obviously very good at what he does. But it seems to me like Danny Aiello found him, figured out that he was a great killer, but also that he’s not quite there, and he took advantage of that. The way he talks to him it’s like they’re very close and he’s helping him out but I don’t think he’s really helping him out. He’s “keeping his money” supposedly but I think he’s kind of turned this poor slow fellow into an indentured servant without him knowing it.

So it’s a sad movie, but it also has a dark sense of humor, especially in the characterization of the bad guys. I like the white guy with dreadlocks who’s impressed to find a Burning Spear record in Mathilda’s apartment, and who un-self consciously uses the word “bumbaclot.”

Besson draws you into the odd world of Leon and Mathilda and puts you squarely on their side. Yeah, they’re doing bad shit, but they’re doing it to scumbags. They’re good people, it seems like. So when shit comes to a head you’re very invested in their safety.

The gun battles are great, full of artful property damage and illustrated clearly, with the occasional show-offy camera shot that serves to emphasize the action instead of obscure it like they do now. There’s a great shot from the POV of a small rocket. Stylistically it kind of reminds me of the Wachowski brothers in BOUND. Maybe it was an influence on them. They tried to get Reno to play Agent Smith in THE MATRIX but the poor sucker chose to do GODZILLA instead. That might have been a mistake, in my opinion.

You wanna hear some more Jean Reno trivia? Check this shit out. At one of his weddings his best men were Johnny Hallyday from VENGEANCE and then-French-Interior-Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. I bet they met in the green room of some talk show.

I like some of the Besson productions but they’re usually lacking in some area or another. This one delivers in all departments, from acting to characters to carnage, and it’s all orchestrated just right. I really like this movie. I wondered if it would hold up and actually I think it was a little better than I remembered.

But I really can’t write about LEON without addressing the elephant in the room with the words “What’s the deal, France?” painted on the side in circus font (see diagram). When I saw this a decade ago it was the 14 minutes shorter American cut called THE PROFESSIONAL, and I remember it creeped me out that this little girl is in love with this adult she lives with in hotels, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

I mean I know it’s innocent. He doesn’t do anything, and I think of him as a guardian, a better father figure than the real one that beat her all the time (and who knows – maybe molested her considering some of these ideas she has). But the problem is Leon never tells her “No, I’m an adult. Don’t talk to me like that.” He just brushes her off and gets embarrassed. When she wants to kiss him in the restaurant, for example, he says that people are watching. As if it might be okay if they weren’t.

And that was the version that was cut because they knew Americans wouldn’t go for that shit. This time I watched the longer version, which includes a scene where Mathilda comes in with a dress and makeup and tries to get Leon to be her first. It’s kind of funny the way she has these big ideas about adult things she doesn’t understand. She’s had to grow up fast, getting beat, seeing her family massacred, becoming a murderer herself, but she really is just a little girl. She just doesn’t know it.

So I still like the movie alot, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t nag at me. It’s just too convenient as a pedophile fantasy where he’s honorable and doesn’t do anything but this girl throws herself at him. And he might be tempted, we don’t know. The 10 year reunion DVD/blu-ray extra doesn’t help any. There’s a woman who’s apparently in the movie who explains that she met Luc Besson when she was 12 and dated him when she was 15 and she says “this is my story.” And the producer says it’s okay just because Besson directed Jean Reno to think of his character as being 14 years old.

Plus Natalie Portman mentions some of the things her parents had them cut out of the script, including a scene where he accidentally comes in when she’s in the shower and she exposes herself to him. I mean, that would’ve been in there if it was up to Besson.

So all that’s kinda troubling. On the other hand, you have grown up Portman interviewed on there and unlike so many child stars she has clearly grown into this intelligent, thoughtful adult, and she sounds so heartfelt and eloquent talking about her love for the story, the characters, the experience of making it, and everybody involved from Besson to Reno to the costume designer to her parents. So it’s harder to think of the movie as sleazy when the 12 year old girl in the middle of it all clearly turned out fine. And has an Oscar.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 at 3:00 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

122 Responses to “Leon (aka The Professional)”

  1. the blu ray of this has been calling me every time I go to Target, I should really buy it one day

  2. also I have a funny story regarding this movie

    back when it first came out on VHS, I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, me and my mom were in a Blockbuster and I still remember my mom remarking to the clerk that the lenses of Jean Reno’s sunglasses looked like stickers they stuck onto the box, me and my mom still get a laugh when I bring that up

    here’s the cover http://www.amazon.com/Professional-VHS-Jean-Reno/dp/6303421563

  3. Watched this the other day, during my “Academy Awards”-preparations (since it’s Portmans first acting gig). Loved it then and love it now. Definitely one of the best movies of the 90s. Portman already showed her huge potential and delivered one of her best performances. I also liked the way the more risky parts of this movie were handled, and don’t agree with your assessment that it’s a pedophile fantasy. It would be if the possible romance would be portrayed as a good idea, but it isn’t; Mathilda’s “love” for Leon makes the viewer (and him) feel uneasy, like it should. Overall, a great movie, and quite possibly Besson’s best.

  4. God damn I love this film. It’s a shame Besson doesn’t even try to make films like this anymore…

  5. If I remember correctly, most of those SWAT guys at the end were actually good cops, right? The only real “bad” guy was Oldman, which sort of made it hard to root for Leon blowing away like 12 honest cops just doing their jobs. (He had already killed the dude with the dreads and the other scumbags at this point)

    Yes, there’s an origin story to my ultra-sensitivity to this – I remember when I was a kid, I loved me some T2 until someone pointed out to me “you know all those cops Arnold shot in the kneecaps are going to be in wheelchairs for the rest of their life” and I was like “Damnit!”

  6. Great movie, although I haven’t seen it in a while. I did watch it like 4-5 times back in the 90’s.

    The sexual undertones are weird, but personally I think Leon is obviously a little bit retarded. He is a child in an adult’s body. Mathilda actually comes off as more mature in many ways, and definitely more sexually aware than Leon. To me it very strongly feels that Leon is still a virgin, and is confused by sex, as he still sees it from a child’s point of view.

    Because of all that, I have never been particularly creeped out by the film. It feels more like two children being attracted to each other, and the boy being less sexually mature than the girl.

  7. A sequel to this with grown-up Portman kicking ass is just begging to be made.

  8. one guy from andromeda

    March 1st, 2011 at 7:45 am

    You’re also in on the Pedo-hysteria, Vern?

  9. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    March 1st, 2011 at 7:56 am

    “So all that’s kinda troubling.” It’s these strange creatures like Harry Knowles who make comments about how they want to get it on with children that bug me out. I don’t know what he said about Portman in Leon, but I didn’t feel comfortable reading his ramblings about the kid in Kick Ass. The crazy fat fuck.

  10. Reno as Agent Smith? I don’t know if he could have made the character as effective as Hugo Weaving did. Something about Weavings delivery of his lines in that movie is just so cold and robotic, I can’t see/hear Reno nailing it like that.

  11. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    March 1st, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Agreed Dieselboy, Hugo Weaving’s delivery as a robot was the most human thing in The Matrix.

  12. To be fair, I went back and looked at Terminator 2 recently and he’s actually shooting people in the thigh, not the kneecap. But everybody thinks it’s the other; there was even a big problem in Britain when it opened there, the national film board really freaked out (because the Irish Republican Army used to kneecap people all the time).

    Y’know, I saw THE PROFESSIONAL in theaters (I think it was my freshman year of college) and enjoyed it, and it’s a good movie, but “one of the best movies of the 90s”? Really? It’s as good or better then Goodfellas, JFK, Thelma And Louise, Nixon, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Terminator 2, Heat, Dazed And Confused, Chasing Amy, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Titanic, LA Confidential, The Sweet Hereafter….Well, you see what I mean.

    I’ve just never understood the sort of devotion The Prof. evokes in people. I remember even during those long ago days in Boston, when it had just opened, arguing with fellow students who were insisting it was a masterpiece and basically perfect. I was like, “Guys, it’s got some great action scenes and the little girl is terrific, but jeez, this is not, y’know, Reservoir Dogs…” I also remember comparing it to a then pretty-much-forgotten novel called “True Grit”.

    Also: I read this great interview with Gary Oldman once where he was saying how frustrating directing Nil By Mouth in England had been; at one point he wanted to have I think a fight on a city street at night, and have a shop window get broken or something, and everybody was going, no, no, we can’t do it, it’ll be too much of a hassle, it’ll disrupt everything too much. And Oldman was replaying, “Guys, in “Leon” we blew up a resteraunt on Broadway. Okay, do you hear me? We BLEW UP an entire resteraunt ON BROADWAY. That’s BROADWAY, in NEW YORK CITY. During the busiest part of the day! And you’re telling me we can’t have two guys fighting on a sidewalk!?”

  13. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “bumbaclot” typed out before. Nice.

  14. Well if you’re going to put in Chasing Amy as one of the best movies of the 90s then you could easily put The Professional in that company. And I like Chasing Amy a lot but it’s not world’s better than The Professional.

  15. The problem is compounded when you consider Besson’s body of work, which is filled with examples of men falling in love with much younger and/or innocent, borderline feral women. You’ve got NIKITA, DANNY THE DOG, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, TRANSPORTER 3, ANGEL-A… Clearly, this kind of thing floats his boat. On the one hand, kinda creepy. On the other hand, it gives his movies a personal stamp. You don’t get that very often in the action realm.

  16. CC – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it actually would make a big difference to me if Terminator 2 was shooting guys in the thighs and not the kneecaps. Thanks for the tip, I’m gonna have to check it out again.

    I really think the killing of the cops really did take me out of Leon though. (The same way Bond blowing away all those clueless Russian soldiers took me out of Goldeneye) I think a quick line or two establishing that those were dirty cops as well would have helped alot.

  17. P.S. I haven’t actually seen ANGEL-A so I’d appreciate it if someone let me know if it doesn’t fit my theory before I publish BESSONETICS: THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF A FRENCH PERVERT.

  18. Chasing Amy is in the Criterion Collection. (Well, okay, so’s Armageddon and The Rock, but…) I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a great movie. And The Professional is just, not….I mean again, I don’t get why people are so crazy for it. It’s okay, but it’s not great.

    Regarding Terminator 2: Yeah, I think the confusion mostly stems from the guard at the Mental Hospital, who grabs his knee as he falls over. But the script specifically says “He shoots the guard accurately IN THE THIGH” (emphasis added). Then later with the SWAT team the script says he shoots one in the left thigh before before picking up the gas-grenade launcher. So at the very least, the intention was that he was shooting people in the thighs. There’s no mention of kneecapping anywhere in the script, as far as I can find.

  19. But even if he had been kneecapping them, he’s still on the side of the angels. Remember, they were fighting to stop a nuclear holocaust, which they wouldn’t have been able to do if they’d allowed themselves to be caught by the cops. So I’d say the lives of billions of people (including those who got kneecapped [which they didn’t—they clearly get shot in the thigh]) is worth some minor hobbling. Eggs, omelet, etc.

    Of course then T3 came along and fucked everything up, but at least those cops got another ten or so years to live and tell the story of the time some crazy bulletproof motherfucker took down the entire LAPD.

  20. I still remember a review tagline that said “… MAKES SPEED LOOK LIKE A SLOW RIDE TO GRANDMA’S HOUSE!” (guitar wail). I was 13 when I saw this, and I liked it, but that was my first realization of critical hyperbole.

    “MATILDA” will have Natalie Portman go help out Leon’s twin brother Ken (Jean Reno), who owns a five-star French restaurant in San Francisco and is having mob troubles.

  21. Love this movie, but I think the American cut is better than the director’s cut. Not only did the studio de-creepify it, but they also ditched that scene where Mathilda insists on flushing the drugs down the sink, which I always thought played a bit too preachy. I also like the way the missing scenes alter the feel of the story, make it more elliptical, a little less connected. It’s like in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – Leone’s cut has a scene where Tuco forms a gang with his brothers to get revenge on Clint, but I really liked how in the American version, Tuco just disappeared from the story for awhile and then when he came back, he had already assembled this whole gang offscreen. I always thought there was probably a pretty good backstory there, so for the gang to turn out to be his brothers it was kind of like… meh. My Tuco was more enterprising than that. I figured he had at least posted some fliers or something. WANTED: EVIL COWBOY GANG (FOR REVENGE). Auditions to be held Sunday afternoon in the poker room behind the saloon. Bring own gun. Experience preferred, but not necessary.

  22. Majestyk – oh yeah, I forgot all about T3 and how he was careful not to wound people in that one, which was probably a post 9/11-reaction to some criticism of the cop shooting in T2. And yeah, there was definitely a “for the greater good” thing going on which is why it’s only really a minor, minor complaint in Terminator 2. But in The Professional, there was no greater good, in fact it didn’t even start as self-defense. The cops weren’t trying to kill Mathilda, and you could argue the first cops he killed were trying to arrest him, not kill him. Sorry I keep harping on this and not the pedophilia aspects, by the way. I smell a Professional Remake starring Miley Cyrus and Nicolas Cage, stat.

  23. I wish there really was a sequel called “Matilda”.

    Anyway, I did find the relationship between Matilda and Leon to be awkward when I watched the movie in the theatre. And when I went to watch back the original cut of it with the additional scenes years later, I actually appreciated it more for being able to go to a place that was uncomfortable and yet understandable at the same time. I did think Leon was kind of slow in a way and that’s why he acted the way he did towards Matilda’s advances.

    I should mention that when I watched this in the theatre, there were only 5 people in it and coming out of it, I could not believe that such a great film on every level was not being seen as much as it should have. For some reason, this brings to mind another movie that I watched all alone in a theatre once. It was The Whole Wide World, the biopic of Robert E Howard, starring The always great Vincent D’onofrio and Renee Zellweger. You should check it out and review it if you haven’t yet, Vern. I highly recommend it. It’s an incredibly beautiful film about a misunderstood gifted pulp storyteller.

  24. Porkchop Express

    March 1st, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Vern, I think the girl in the extras is in switchblade romance (haute tension). Maiwenn is her name.

  25. Porkchop Express

    March 1st, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Also, just watched a Serbian film (wow) that was different! Anyone else checked it out yet? I saw the English dvd and at the start of the film the director does a piece to camera saying it’s been cut. Can anyone let me know which parts?

  26. I don’t think the director’s cut is any more creepy than the theatrical release. Because the theatrical release was much more ambiguous about their relationship, you never knew exactly what was going on in-between the scenes. At least in the director’s cut they explicitly dealt with the weirdness and Leon put a kabosh on all the pedo-implications. (Of course, if I remember correctly he says its because he’s still hurt from a previous relationship and not because she’s 12, which is still pretty creepy).

  27. Hey Vern, I’m a huge fan of your work and I am incredibly happy that you finally got around to reviewing Leon. Keep up the awesome work!

  28. Mr. Majestyk – You might want to stop the presses. ANGEL-A doesn’t have a much younger or feral love interest. It does continue Besson’s creepy, inexplicable fascination with beautiful women though. As someone who also finds Anne Parillaud and Milla Jovovich attractive I too share his secret shame. I feel guilty admitting it but it’s who I am, I can’t change it.

  29. Porkchop Express, I don’t want to spoil anything but think of the grossest parts of the movie and they go farther than what they cut.

    Although none of the gore is nearly as fucked up as to where the movie goes sexually.

  30. Porkchop Express

    March 1st, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Sternshein, More stuff on the on the video they watch?

  31. Jake – hee.

    I 9/10ths love this movie, but Gary Oldman murders it for me. For “brilliant display of mega-acting” read “Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2”. There’s a genuinely creepy moment where it’s revealed what his occupation is, but otherwise he’s so over-the-top, he is impossible to take seriously.

    The scenes with Portman and Reno though… scintillating. And Reno is scarily convincing as an emotionally stunted assassin.

  32. hey CC – how could you list the best movies of the 90’s and leave out Jurassic Park!?

  33. I just watched LETHAL WEAPON 2 yesterday and can’t remember the creepy moment that you are referring to.

  34. Dang, just when I clicked “submit”, I got what you were saying. Like I just said 10 minutes ago elsewhere: I need some sleep.

  35. CJ – Damn those personal pronouns. They get you every time.

  36. Darth Irritable

    March 1st, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    R-Naboo. Awesome. Not sure about the Naboo stance on waterboarding.

    Another great one Vern.

  37. one guy from andromeda: I’m not sure what Pedo-Hysteria is, but if it’s an iPhone game or something like that then no, I’m not in on it.

  38. “So it’s harder to think of the movie as sleazy when the 12 year old girl in the middle of it all clearly turned out fine. And has an Oscar.”
    But she sure does tend to pick roles that allow her to cry a whole damn lot:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wM60afclpM
    “But even if he had been kneecapping them, he’s still on the side of the angels. Remember, they were fighting to stop a nuclear holocaust, which they wouldn’t have been able to do if they’d allowed themselves to be caught by the cops.”
    Actually, wouldn’t it have been much simpler for Sarah to turn herself in with the Terminator, have him show them he’s a cyborg by cutting his skin off, and then just getting the government to shut down Cyberdine Systems to prevent Skynet from ever being made? Her story kinda gets a lot more credible when she can actually show people a real Terminator, and even though she didn’t, the film DOES have a scene where said Terminator gets shot up so much by swat that his metal skull and red eye is showing.
    I was always confused by the part when he’s using the minigun and tear gas on the cops to take them out non-lethally, and his hud says “Human Casualties 0.0”. How can a casualty be a decimal number? And don’t say when the person is Half Past Dead.

  39. Yes, because giving the government a bunch of shiny new technology will surely deter them from using it for evil.

  40. From the story point of view, the weird sexual undertones work great. Both Leon and Mathilda are broken people trying to connect. She’s trying hard to grow up fast and become a woman, and he just doesn’t know how to respond to it. It’s an interesting character study of two different, yet similar people.

    I bet Natalie Portman could act the shit out of a film about a grown up Mathilda. A damaged, rootless, tormented individual with fucked up childhood who now kills people because that’s the only decent thing she’s learned in her life. Considering films like Closer, V for Vendetta and Black Swan, that role would be right in Portman’s wheelhouse. Second Oscar calling, ka-ching!

    Of course, it’s entirely possible Besson was/is just a pervy dude who wrote the original Leon to work out his sexual issues on film, and wouldn’t know how to approach an adult Mathilda movie. But who knows.

  41. As the Terminator tells it, they don’t actually set out to use it for “evil”, just for defence and as a deterrant. It’s Skynet itself that starts the war. All they really need to do is make sure the Government takes the common sense step of NOT putting a computer in charge of their entire nuclear missile stock and military ordinance. Use the hardware all you want, just not the software.

  42. Hey, I didn’t list ALL the great movies of the 90s. And Jurassic Park isn’t a great movie either. PARTS of it are great, but overall, it’s kinda weak. Jurassic Park III was the one that came the closest to realizing the potential of the basic premise, and it STILL had a lotta problems. If you cut Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Park III together into one CARLOS-type four hour and twenty-minute mega-movie, trimming away the problems and keeping the good stuff, that might work best.

    Majestyk and Marlow–good ones, guys. : ) Laughin’ it up at those.

    And…regarding T2–turning themselves in wouldn’t have worked, I think. For one, the Government’s reaction would probably have been, “Hey, proof Skynet will actually work! Great! Activate it as soon as possible! Don’t worry about that whole sentient computer / nuclear war thing, we’ll deal with that when we come to it.” I mean, the whole point is that it’s a metaphor for using dangerous technology to achieve short-term goals without really thinking about the long term consequences. Also, it just would have made it really easy for the T-1000 to find them and kill them….

  43. one guy from andromeda

    March 1st, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    All i am saying is that it is in my opinion not necessary if a movie explores that topic (like Leon or Tideland for example) to automatically turn on that circuit of the brain that’s creeped out and wondering about the filmmaker’s intentions. It’s not like you wonder if the director of Silence of the Lambs maybe secretly gets off on eating people’s brains, or are creeped out because The American might be a turn on to watch for people who are loners and build home-made weapons. Although that would be just as justified.
    Kid’s have a sexuality, it is an interesting topic for a story, especially because it is a difficult subject – nothing wrong with it. That does not mean that everyone who works with that artistically is a secret child fucker wanting to make soft-porn for their fellow pedophiles in my opinion.

  44. SWAT teams always seem to be shooting enough innocent people and dogs in real life that I guess I don’t mind seeing them get shot by Jean Reno in a movie.

  45. Yeah, but when Tarantino keeps focusing on women’s feet you figure he might be a foot fetishist. It would be dishonest to not talk about it when it makes me uncomfortable watching the movie. It’s not something I know how to ignore and especially after hearing the unconvincing arguments from the producer. I don’t understand the difference in feelings on this topic between the U.S. and France, if the producer is correct about that. If somebody can explain it to me it was worth bringing up.

    And I think I was more fair toward Besson than necessary. I’ve accused directors of being perverts with way less evidence. And I was hardly asking for anybody to be burned at the stake.

  46. It`s not like Luc Besson has made a lot of movies with underage girls. The Final Battle, Subway, The Big Blue, Nikita etc all has grown women as love interests. It is kind of weird that he dated a 15 year old girl, but on the other hand was he the only european director who thought it was fair that Polanski got arrested for his pedo-rape. I find creepy as well, but the unrequited sexuel tensions in it actually highlights the love-story imo. And I personally think that Leons story about his broken heart is an attempt at turning her down without hurting her. Or he really is 12 years old in the brain. There is defenetly no evidence in the movie about him being interested in her sexually.

    Also, the score is absolutely brilliant.

  47. What’s weird is that Natalie Portman played a similar role in Beautiful Girls. She had a creepy not-romance with an author. Movie was on Comedy Central all the time

  48. Leon contains one of my all time favourite composed shots, when Stansfield’s crew come back to the apartment to kill Mathilda’s family: a long take where the camera remains static while each of them climb the stairs and take up positions, before finally Stansfield
    himself arrives. As Stansfield himself says, it’s the quiet before the storm.

  49. CC – Jurassic Park…not a great movie? *points at self and mouths “not that great?”

  50. but seriously though, Jurassic Park is one of the greatest blockbusters of all time

  51. The situation in Leon might be creepy in a few places, but the age for sexual consent vary from 12 to 18 her in Europe, so I guess that’s why we see it a bit differently “over here”.

  52. Also, I am unable to ever fully and without reservations enjoy any Luc Besson film, as THE BIG BLUE was one of the worst fucking movies I have ever seen and one of the most frustrating, irritating and downright insulting experiences I’ve ever had at a cinema. It is a point of pride that I don’t walk out of films that I’ve paid money to see, but I walked the fuck outta that one and never looked back. Went two theaters over, watched BIG, and salvaged the price of the ticket and the afternoon overall.
    I remember being annoyed by THE FIFTH ELEMENT too, but lousy as that was it was still at least watchable, and DID look great and have lots of cool special effects. THE BIG BLUE had nothing. Nothing at all. I remember somebody saying a better title would be THAT BLEW BIG.

    I was lured into THE BIG BLUE by the poster, the commercials, and the promise of some kind of techno-fantasy involving underwater exploration, and the mysteries of the sea, and a vaugely mystical element as well. It betrayed that promise. BUT, going to the same theater a relatively short time later, leaning back in my seat, and as I enjoyed one of the BEST times I’ve ever had at the movies, thinking, “Thank you, James Cameron, for giving us THE ABYSS, and setting things straight.”

  53. So I guess I’m the only one who liked ELEMENT without tearing it apart?* It was what it was, Besson trying to make a Franco Star Wars.

    *=Well maybe not. That one scene of Besson’s Ex learning about “War” was….*shakes head*

  54. I loved “The Fifth Element”, apart from the escape at the very beginning (too much action happening to too many characters that we haven’t had a chance to care about yet.) There is so much that is great about that film that gets generally ignored IMO. And yes, “war” was definitely one of those things IMO. I guess it depends on how you take this stuff.

    “Leon” was fantastic whenever Oldman wasn’t in it, the rest of Besson’s films I can take or leave. And “Transporter” was genuinely terrible, in a “so bad it’s boring” kind of way.

  55. THE FIFTH ELEMENT didn’t really hold up for me, when I watched it recently, but it’s still fun to watch. Especially because it proves that Chris Tucker’s shtick CAN be absolutely hilarious, if it’s used right. (And seriously, every single one of his antics and especially screams made me laugh loud in this movie!)

  56. I have no beef with THE FIFTH ELEMENT. The ending is corny as hell, but it seems to be heartfelt, so I’ll allow it.

    And Paul, the first step to getting over your “Gary Oldman is the worst thing about LEON” issue is to admit that you have a problem. I know that’s a big step, but it’s okay. Take your time. We’re all here for you whenever you’re ready to get well.

  57. Another great review Vern, and a movie I haven’t seen in too long.

    Did you catch the brandspankin’ new trailer for our movie DETENTION yet? http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/23657

    MP

  58. Dude, DETENTION looks awesome! And I’m not saying this, just because you are associated with that movie!

  59. Wow, they really did take Besson seriously once…

    http://jabondy.free.fr/210Spielberg-Besson/1.html

  60. I really liked this movie. i’m going to go back and watch it again. thanks for bringing it up vern.

  61. Majestyk – I don’t know a single person in real life (as in not on the Internet, I know you guys are all spambots, but that’s ok) who disagrees with me on the Oldman issue. Although to be fair, one of those people in real life is my friend who went to see “Bad Boys 2” with me, and others are the ones who recommended “Transformers”, so their judgement may not be the most sound.

  62. This is the problem with with watching special features and learning more about the guys who make the movies you love… I always thought Mathilda’s inappropriate sexuality was meant to be a reflection of the extreme psychological damage she’s suffered, and that Leon’s akward response to it was meant as a kindness to her — a way to not judge her and let her keep her dignity without actually doing something inappropriate with her. Turns out no, Besson actually kind of gets into that dynamic, which makes everything less interesting and way more creepy, especially considering the obvious trauma Mathilda has suffered. This is exactly what happened to me with LAST TANGO IN PARIS when I thought is sexual power dynamics spoke to the emotional state of the characters but it turns out Bertolucci was just a sexist asshole.

  63. It’s great to hear Vern’s take on this movie but let’s be honest, nobody who would read this site hasn’t already seen this twice, so where’s our Drive Angry review. I need to know if this is worth my ten bucks.

    Also really really late to the party but, I watched half of Crank 2 last night and had to turn it off. What is wrong with a person who thinks that’s a worthwhile movie.

  64. Also Mr. Subtlety nails it re: pedo Leon weirdness. Besson may be a weirdo but in the context of this film it makes sense and I found it to be affecting and not creepy. Besides, that dynamic IS the movie, it’s not some tacked-on thing; without it you’ve just got a movie about a French guy who kills people, and we have Mesrine for that.

  65. Paul, those so-called “friends” of yours are just enablers. They’re clearly a bad influence. If you want to get clean you’re going to have to cut ties with this bad crowd you’ve been running with.

  66. Mr. Majestyk – If I must be fair, THE ABYSS has an ending on paper just as fucking Nebraska corny as ELEMENT, and yet in execution ABYSS (both versions) never did.

    Paul – What’s to be “emotionally invested” about a chase scene? Its not like we were invested exactly in C3PO and R2D2’s fates in the opening of SW in their escape, were we? At least I never heard anyone use that complaint.

    this almost reminds me of those people who swear to me that we needed the baby in that opening sequence in Abrams’ STAR TREK. As if the audience can’t quite lift themselves out of apathy to care simply about a guy sacrificing himself to save his crew. See I could criticize a movie without using MAD-level pun titles.

    CJ Holden – Tucker was the highlight in ELEMENT, mixing MJ/Prince but on steroids. Hell at another time, if he had belonged to a future generation, Tucker would have been a solid choice for a Prince biopic.

    Gilmore – If you couldn’t stand CRANK 2, whats to say you could stand DRIVE ANGRY? For that matter, Vern didn’t review UNKNOWN which regardless of how one felt about it, some folks apparently wanted to see it and apparently a few enough of them did. $44 million isn’t exactly hot shit, but it definately is compared to DA’s final earnings whenever Summit puts it out of its misery and yanks it from the moviehouses.

    But don’t worry, I’m certain Vern will review DA. The father of Mega Acting can’t let us down on that front.

    (Liam Neeson a bigger action draw than Nic Cage? That’s just……..interesting.)

  67. I’m also waiting for the DRIVE ANGRY review. It costs like 15 bucks to see a 3D movie in NYC and I’m not plunking down that kind of money unless I’ve been assured that it contains the basic badass tenets. The post-MECHANIC boycott is still in effect.

  68. Mr. Subtlety,

    It’s always rough when a filmmaker’s statements seem to directly contradict something you valued about their film. For what it’s worth, I think so long as you the viewer can cite specifics from the “text” to support your argument, a director’s comments don’t immediately invalidate your interpretation of their film. As much as I am default follower of the auteur theory, I must also admit that directors aren’t always the final authority on their own films. There can be a great divide between what was going on in their mind when they made a film, and the meaning being conveyed on screen by the final product.

    It’s been a good 10 years I’d guess since I’ve seen LEON, and I actually probably saw the American version, so I can’t recall myself how creepy the relationship actually is.

  69. Majestyk, as someone else has already mentioned ANGEL-A is pedophilia free, but it does have some interesting sexual politics in it. It has been a few years since I have seen it so I can’t be to specific, but I remember finding the sexual politics odd to say the least. I liked the movie as a whole but I remember that part of it standing out to me.

  70. I have to agree with Vern, there is something about the relationship between Leon and little Natalie in this movie that always felt wrong and dirty to me. I do think part of it is a cultural thing. For better or for worse they are much more open about sexuality in Europe then we are in the states, and lets be serious France has a very different stance on pedophilia then the US. I would use Roman Polanski as an example.

    This thread reminds me of the LET ME IN thread where everyone debate the nature of the relationship of it’s leads and weather it was appropriate or not.

  71. I’m surprised nobody has brought up TOTORO yet.

  72. Charles: Would you characterize the female lead in ANGEL-A as a socially innocent but ferociously feminine primal force? Because I see this trait in many of Besson’s female characters, and I think it’s something that can be traced back to Humbert Humbert’s theory of the “nymphet” from LOLITA. In other words, it’s possible Besson is placing traits he finds attractive in younger girls into more age-appropriate women.

  73. Yeah, I don’t let this sort of thing ruin the movies for me — I still love TANGO and think its a beautiful, complex film which simply still rings true for me. Likewise THE PROFESSIONAL, which still feels to me like a depiction of a person who is more deeply damaged than sexually alluring. With my love of those films, however, I must admit a slight case of hero worship for their creators, which is somewhat tarnished when you discover that they’re less interesting and less moral than you might hope. Then again, I don’t always entirely discredit someone for what they say in interviews; despite what Bertolucci says, for instance, I have a hard time thinking he didn’t understand the complex and tragic dynamic between his characters on some level, even if that’s not the way he articulates it verbally. I respect that artists are artists in a specific medium for a reason — they’re better at communicating using the language of film than they are at communicating using spoken language.

    And heck, maybe there’s nothing wrong with directors getting their issues worked out on-screen. As far as I’m aware, Besson has never victimized any youngsters in real life. It may not be as much fun for us to watch as it is for them to watch, but I don’t know that I judge Besson any more for fantasizing about young girls on-screen than I do for Stallone fantasizing about extreme violence. In a way, its probably kind of sad that we’re this worked up about even the vaguest implication of an older guy not outright dismissing the sexual advances of a young girl but perfectly find with fantasies of sadistic, violent revenge which are far more overt in the film.

    Just sayin, is all

  74. Majestyk, that seems to be in line with what I remember. The Female lead was sexually liberated, and very much a free spirit. The film also seems to feature a recurring Besson theme, and that is one in which the male lead needs the relationship with the female lead to learn more about himself and eventually become the man he is destined to become.

  75. Detention looks interesting because I can’t figure out what kind of movie it is and why it doesn’t look like a movie and more like a TV show? I’m going to pay to see it however.

    Also, Drive Angry was ok but not worth the 11 bucks I paid to see it in the theater. Nic Cage is so damn boring in it. I wanted Mega Acting in 3D and we don’t get that…ever. David Morse is in it and it should have been David Morse in the Cage role and Cage in the roll of the cult leader. Would have had much more gravitas to the film.

  76. I have to agree with your last point, Mr. Subtlety. It just seems kind of weird to me that people would be more off-put by the fact that Leon rebuffs her advances without also turning to the camera and saying, “Pedophilia is wrong” than by the fact that he cold-bloodedly murders dozens of cops. (Which is not to suggest I personally am against the cold-blooded murder of innocents in film. Make no mistake about that. I am pro-killing and pro-amorality in movies. Since the vast majority of films have such a moralizing tone I find it refreshing when I see one that is clearly unfamiliar with the Hays Code. Not that that really applies to LEON which I would consider a fairly moral movie.)

  77. Maybe it’s me but I was under the impression the first SWAT guys there were friends with Gary Oldman’s character. I get that impression with the horrible way they treat the kid.

  78. I actually found the American cut to be kind of creepier. At least in the original cut it’s overt that Mathilda’s into him and that that kind of tension is intentional. In the American cut that tension is still there, but because it’s less overt, I was kind of concerned that maybe I was imagining it, and the movie was totally innocent and I was just kind of a creep.

    I still might be, you know, I’m not ruling it out. Just not, like, because of this one incident.

  79. Besson directed LE DERNIER COMBAT, a sort of MAD MAX for grown-ups (nothing wrong with MAD MAX, and I have three copies of it – pand-and-scan VHS, DVD and BLU), then a cooky, broken experiment called SUBWAY. He peaked with NIKITA. THE PROFESSIONAL is a shit sandwich and it’s a testament to how out of touch I am that I remain baffled by how much sticky, lubed love it gets. I see nothing there but a self-indulgent pastiche that borders on self-parody – but unaware self-parody which is just sad. No surprise, this hack wrote ANGEL A. Walter Hill eats that crap for breakfast and picks his teeth with it.

  80. I understand the argument that if you’re put off by creepy pedophilic implications in a movie then you should also be put off by violence in the movie, but I’m not sure I buy it. Don’t most of us have more of a problem watching a rape scene in a horror movie than a murder scene? When sex enters into the equation it changes things, I think it’s natural to be a little more suspicious of the motives of the people who made it and who watch it. Or are we wrong when we do that?

  81. “When sex enters into the equation it changes things, I think it’s natural to be a little more suspicious of the motives of the people who made it and who watch it. Or are we wrong when we do that?”

    Yes! And I say that as a director/screenwriter who has made several shorts with incest/pedophilia. It`s too easy making movies which flatly states that pedophilia is bad. Most people already know that. But suggesting that children/teens are not sexuel beings are as damaging to victims of abuse as suspecting that directors who shows childrens sexuality advocates pedophilia. I know it`s all terrible taboo and stuff, in both america and europa, but the debate is on the same level as when splatter-movies were a hot potatoe in the eighties, or when people accused action-movies of making the audience violent in the nineties.

    I think that Luc Besson sexualizes Mathilde in Leon, but as a director he clearly takes a stand. He thinks Leon is a good guy because he doesn`t take advantage of a horny and confused teengirl. And I think most of it`s audience applauds when Leon turns her down. I know I did. I don`t know if Luc Besson intended the relationship of Leon and Mathilde to be as uncomfortable as we percieve it, but I think he did, it`s his way to make us identify with Leon and what turns a twisted set-up into a beatiful non-sexuel love-story between to damaged and lonely human beings.

    Somebody mentiones Tideland as another example of a creepy pedohilia fantasy (..not really, I exagerate to make a point..). Why is it so uncomfortable for audiences to be reminded that children are curious about sex? It`s not sick or perverted; it`s normal. Kids fool around, I know I did, and it`s up to adults not to take advantage of it. And not condemning their nature.

    Sexual abuse is a pretty important topic for a lot of artists, especially those who personally has experienced how abuse can destroy peoples lifes, but you can`t make a realistic movie about abuse without portraying the victims as sexuel beings, and everytime a directors does that, somebody accuses him of being a pedophile (unless the director is female of course). Most children have sexuel feelings when they are involved in a sexual abusive “relationship”. Ignoring that is traumatizing the victims further, telling them that they are abnormal and even partly responsible for their faith.

    Well, that was my thoughts when I made my last short feature, which includes a scene where a 14 year old girl seduces her uncle (and he doesn`t turn her down like Leon does). My biggest nightmare during the production was that somebody would accuse me of having pedophilic tendencies, even though the story was based on real events and focused on the damaging consequences of the abuse. I was terrified that the audience would focus on a scene where a 14-year-old-girl wants to fuck an elder man instead of getting the bigger picture. A few test-audience members reacted very strongly and thought the movie was “sick”, but a guy who worked with traumatized victims of sexual abuse stood up and called it the most realistic portrayal of abuse he had ever seen. And it even ended up getting nominated for best short feature at a childrens-movies festival. (..but lost to a story about a homosexuel teenager who falls in love with his girlfriend`s father..)

    But I`m very very happy that no reviewers felt obliged to suspect me of pedophilic tendencies, even though the movie featured several shots of a teenager in a swimsuit.

  82. Yeah, I get that sex in movies changes things for many people. Though as someone who finds rape and torture scenes equally disturbing that always seemed like kind of a double standard to me.

    If we are upset about the loss of innocence of Mathilda from thinking she wants to have sex it just seems to me we should also be upset about the loss of innocence she gets from being taken to hits and shown how to murder people.

  83. My best friend told me a few years ago, how his then 11 year old step daughter watched him showering through the keyhole of the bathroom door.
    She told him afterwards, because she thought it was a funny prank. There was nothing sexual about it, but damn, if my buddy wasn’t creeped out by it. (with a good sense of humor of course. Even his wife a.k.a. her biological mother laughed at it. He’s still covering the keyhole, when he takes a shower, though.)

  84. Did Paul Schrader get any of this when Taxi Driver was released? That too has a young girl throwing herself at the rotagonist, and Schrader did say that Bickle was a reflection of himself.

  85. Vern — I definitely hear ya, buddy. At the very least, I think pretty much anyone who happens to be a product of American culture is deeply sensetive to even the slightest hint of sexual abuse but fairly comfortable with brutal violence, so it comes as no surprise that people (myself included) find the relationship between Mathidla and Leon uncomfortable while finding the violence entertaining. But in this case it seems particularly pronounced because the sexual undertones between them are so minimal and the violence is so extreme.

    If the film is selling a fantasy, it’s clearly a violent one – its far, far less clear that Besson thinks we’ll find Leon’s sexual situation appealing. So, although I completely understand why American audiences in particular would have the same reaction you did (and I did too, to be fair) I think the balance between the film’s two possible fantasies is soooo heavily skewed towards the violent revenge angle that I think its worth noting and asking ourselves to keep things in perspective. We’re certainly within our rights to find one fantasy much less appealing than the other (and frankly I’m glad we do), but if they’re both strongly antisocial fantasies why are we OK with indulging in one while condemning the other? Fantasizing about violence is normal and harmless but fantasizing about inappropriate sex (even in the veeeery chaste way the film handles it) is disgusting and immoral?

    Certainly, if the film was anywhere nearly as overt with its sexual fantasies as it is with its revenge fantasies, it couldn’t possibly be released in America without huge outrage. I’m sure I’d find it disgusting too, but I can’t help but feel that Jake is right that its a somewhat arbitrary double standard.

  86. Haven´t watched LEON in a while, but I find myself uncomfortable with your guys “pedophile angle”. it NEVER occurred to me while watching it. Why can´t an adult be friends with a kid? I just think the whole thing is sick. I have never heard this discussion anywhere else.

  87. No offence, but this is a very American discussion. And I guess it’s part of your English heritage. That sex should, in any way, shape or form, be “scarier” to watch than violence is something at least we Scandinavians find very odd. In our little corner of the world we find Besson’s take on racism and violence a lot more troublesome than his view on sex.

  88. ShootmcKay – I think (among other things) you’re forgetting the scene where Mathilda comes into the room made up and wearing the dress Leon gave her and explains that she’s decided he has to take her virginity. They’re not just friends, it’s not somebody reading too much into it, it’s what the movie’s about.

    pegsman – Okay, but be fair. I wasn’t talking about sex scenes, I was talking about rape and pedophilia. We Americans love boobs and butts. We’re just against adults fucking kids. And in fairness to the French I’ve been made uncomfortable more often by Japanese movies, where they know how to dampen a perfectly good karate story by having the hero rape somebody and then she falls in love with him.

  89. Yes, you love boobs and butts. It’s feelings you don’t like. Mathilda’s a girl who’s grown up way to fast, and since Leon doesn’t think of her as a sexual being, we got to assume that Besson’s playing on the viewers feelings. And why do we feel uneasy? Because she’s attractive? Because she’s under age? I don’t assume that Besson’s a racist because he wrote Taken, or that he think American agents are above the law and can kill half of Paris because he produced From Paris With Love. So why should I think he’s a peadophile just because he wrote something that are very much a part of real life? 12 year olds have sexual feelings just as everyboody else, and a girl like Mathilda would sooner or later bring up the subject. I think we’re all against adults fucking kids, Vern. But in Spain the legal age is 13, and in some US states it’s 18. Some would say that 13’s too young, and a lot of people would say that 18’s way to late in our day and age. Rape, on the other hand, is always unpleasant to watch. The rape scenes in for example the uncut version of Death Wish II are horrible. But are they worse than the scenes showing what Bronson does to the gang later in the movie? And if so, why?

  90. – vern

    I´m pretty sure that most countries are against fucking kids, but America is appearently one of the few countries that refuses to aknowledge that humans are sexual beings from they are born till they die. Portraying kids with sexuel feelings, as in Leon, is NOT a plea for pedophilia, especially when the audience clearly are supposed to root for the main-character when he turns her down. I can`t think of a more responsible way to deal with the subject. Imagine Leon slapping her and scolding her, that would have been kind of traumatizing too, right?

    But maybe your problem with Leon is that it even brings up the subject. Sexuel feelings between a kid and an adult is not really nessecary to tell the story. But it`s a natural part of life, why hide it? All kids have crushes on adults at some point in their life. I think it`s great when a filmmaker has the balls to make a movie that adresses the issue and shows that adults shouldn`t take advantage of kids confused sexuality. And I think it`s brilliant that the director adresses the issue in an entertaining action-movie instead of some small arthouse picture that nobody would bother to see anyway.

    Or maybe Luc Besson just tried to take the edge of the main-plot; a grown man who teatches a kid to murder people. Funny how nobody gets offended by that element of the story. Showing a kid killing people is okay, I guess. Showing a kid with sexuel feelings is sick!

  91. Vern – As i said, I haven´t watched LEON in a long time. But even if that is what the movie is about, it went over my head. Maybe I´m extremly naive ( or plain dumb ), for me it was just a great action-movie at the time. I´m sure I´d see the nuances of the flick if i rewatched it. Which I probably should.
    I only remember it as a cool hitman-movie.

  92. Shoot: It sounds to me like you never saw LEON; you saw THE PROFESSIONAL. The American cut doesn’t have the scenes that make the sexual dynamic much more explicit, so it’s understandable if it slipped by you back in the day. That’s what that cut was designed for.

  93. The version I own has a running time of 106 minutes (PAL,so add a few more minutes if you have NTSC), it seems to be the “non-perverted cut”. Am I right?

  94. That seems right. The uncut version is over two hours long. Looks like you’ve got the one that’s just a nice, antiseptic story about a dude training a little girl to murder people.

  95. Mr. Majestyk – it may be a nicer story than the uncut version. But training a little girl to murder people is not very nice in my book.

  96. Someday I’m going to manage to disabuse you Europeans of the notion that Americans don’t engage in sarcasm. Winky face.

  97. Sarcasm is my middle name…No wait its Cornelius, and if you tell anyone i kill you!

  98. Your secret’s safe with me. Mine’s worse than that, and a lot Frencher.

  99. The shorter cut was what was released in Ireland, and presumably the UK also, but it was called LEON here too, not THE PROFESSIONAL.

  100. That was a LAST BOYSCOUT reference. But I´m sure you´d knew that. But I felt the need to clarify that for those out there who didn´t

  101. I knew it was from something but it momentarily escaped me. And after the LAST BOYSCOUT quotefest I instigated last week. The shame! Damn you and your craftiness!

  102. There’s sexual abuse of children, and then there’s children’s sexuality. They’re two very different things. We shouldn’t exploit or exaggerate children’s sexuality, obviously, but we also shouldn’t pretend that we’re these asexual, neutered beings until we turn sixteen and then suddenly, whoosh! We magically transform into trampy cheerleaders or nerds who can’t get laid or fall in love with the local vampire or something.

  103. All the local vampires in my neighborhood has perished, thanks to my nocturnal activities. Some motherfuckers always try to upskate uphills!

  104. I meant iceskate uphills….

  105. Good movie. Loved it first time I saw it, think it still holds up as I’ve watched it over the years. Appreciate the themes and motifs it brings up and that they still inspire discussion and vitriol from people. Reading all these comments from people in different countries and parts of the world with different views is highly amusing to me as I mount my throne and pretend to be above it all. Carry on bitches.

  106. This truly is the Most Awesome Community in the world. No trolls (whatever that means, I´m only trying to be hip) or idiots. Just good people to discuss bad-ass movies with. Great work, Vern by assembling all these fine people in the same community. I love to discuss shit here. I´ll give 3 thumbs up! (I´m a radioactive mutant from the Chernobyl incident,Springfield on The Simpsons has the Three-Eyed Fish. I have three thumbs myself!)

  107. Ok, for those of you that find the violence in the film more disturbing then the sexual undertones between Leon and Matilda, what do you think about the Lone Wolf and Cub films? Those are movies about an adult (the childs father) teaching a small child to kill in much the same way.

  108. Charles- I´ve only watched the movie Shogun assassin and that movie was all fucked up. It felt like an episodic series cut upinto one movie. But yeah, you are right. he is pretty much doing the same thing

  109. Lone Wolf and Cup is pure awesomeness.

    I know I used the “violence is bad too”-argument, but I really don`t think that people should be cautios of any kind of fiction. Or offended by it. Unless it wins an oscar for best picture. I do find sex and violence disturbing when it`s portrayed in a realistic manner and content, as in Lilya Forever, Irreversible, The War Zone or Come and See. But some zombie raping his sister like in Lone Wolf 6, is so far removed from reality that it makes me laugh.

    I did fastforward through the last 5 minutes of Inside, though.

  110. Charles

    I did find the relationship between Leon and Mathilde disturbing while I watched the movie, but I`m pretty sure that`s the way Luc Besson intended the audience to react. Using Bjorks “Venus as a boy” as score might be a tad tasteless, though.

    I haven`t seen any of the extras, but I read that Luc Besson based the movie on a relationship he had with a 15 year old girl. But that means that it was a non-sexuel relationsship, right?

    One of my best friends ran off when she was 14 and ended up living with an elder man. They lived together for 5 years and she thought of him as her boyfriend, but he never once took advantage of her. And that really upset her. Pretty great guy, imo, though..
    Was Luc Bessons relationship to the “real” Mathilda like that?

  111. Let me try one more time to explain myself. Of course I understand that in real life shooting people is bad and in movies it’s just fantasy. But I’m more comfortable with the part of the fantasy where Leon and Mathilda blow away corrupt cops than the part where the little girl thinks she’s in love with the adult and he just goes along with it and never tells her to knock it off, even after getting kicked out of hotels because of it.

    I didn’t condemn the movie or accuse Besson of being a pedophile, in fact I said it was a really good movie, praised Besson and gave some arguments defending the pervy aspect of the movie. But I feel like just because I brought it up as a legitimate point of discussion I’m being lumped in with a puritanical “violence is fine but absolutely no nudity” double standard. I don’t think that’s fair.

  112. To me, the real question is how much is the film having ti both ways — is it attempting to titallate us with the relationship between the two, or merely depiciting an unusual arrangement between two damaged characters? To me, it reads more like the latter than the former. I can’t really see any point in the film where I feel like Besson is sexualizing Mathilda (as opposed to merely addressing her sexual nature). But then again, I realize now that the version I saw was THE PROFESSIONAL, so maybe I’m talking about something different.

    Anyone want to comment on if LEON reads more like a sexual fantasy than PROFESSIONAL does? Is it just more explicit, or does it change your opinion about the way the audience is supposed to relate to the situation?

  113. Mr. S, it has been a while since I have watched it (I should go dust of my DVD), but if I remember correctly in LEON there is just a couple more scenes of them together interacting and there conversation might have been sexual in nature but nothing graphic. I think the big deference is that in LEON Matilda makes her sexual advances more well know and the point is somewhat underlined, whereas in THE PROFESSIONAL it is more implied than shown or said.

  114. Also, just so my stance is clear, as I said in my previous post the relation ship between Leon and Matilda always made me uncomfortable, but I am not saying it is a pro pedophilia movie. I really like the film, but I think much like Vern I feel there are dynamics of Leon and Mathilda’s relationship that I am uneasy with. The first time I saw the film I was in high school. I was a teenager not much older then Matilda’s charter, and it creeped me out then, and when I have watched it as an adult I am still creeped out by it just in a different way then when I was a teenager.

  115. – vern

    I never intended to imply that you are all pro-violence and anti-nudity, and when I reread your review I noticed that you actually pointed out the creepiness of an adult teatching a kid to kill.

    I just disagree that it`s a pedophile fantasy and I strongly disagree with being cautious of directors who dare to portray children as sexuel beings. Mostly because I`ve done that myself.

    I think it`s worth discussing how sexuality is portrayed in movies (especially those horrible twillight-movies!), but a lot of the movies I love for their honesty and intelligence (like Tideland) get trashed by reviewers because they make them uncomfortable.

    I think adults forget what it was like when we were children. I know I do. I teach teenagers and think of them as innocent children, and when I realize what they have been up to in the weekend, I get offended and worried. And then I remember what a horny sex-obsessed freak I was at their age.

    I think one of the reasons I forget what it`s actually like to be a child/teen, is that movies never dare to portray children as sexual beings, and when they do, their characters are often played by actors in their twenties.

    Goddamn, I`m rampling again, but the conclusion I might be getting at, is that children who grow up in a culture which fails to aknowledge them as they are, falls easy prey to pedophiles, often the only adults who “accepts” their sexuality (besides Luc Besson) . And that`s a bad thing in my openion.

    But nobody likes this discussion anyway, cause thinking of children as sexual beings is often mistaken as pedophilia. Or even finding the subject interesting might get you branded as a babyfucker.

    Anyway, this pedo-thread is getting out of hand. I`m going over to the rape-thread.

    Also, I would love to read your review of “Gone With The Wind”. And “Thundercrack!”

  116. – Mr. Subtlety

    “The Professionel” is creepier, cause it implies that Mathilde is in love with Leon and suggests that he might be interested in her, but doesn`t contain the scene where he turns her down. Big difference in my openion. According to IMDB, was it the only scene that Luc Besson cut, because he realized that it made american test-audiences nervous.

  117. I’m super-late to this conversation, but it’s a pretty interesting subject to me ’cause I think it really points out a profound cultural difference between the US and the rest of the ‘Western world’; we are fundamentally quite a bit more reserved when it comes to sexual subjects. I remember watching this movie and getting a bit uncomfortable about the portrayal of the character of Mathilda; unlike most kids in movie, she was a bit alluring. And that’s not unrealistic- as many have pointed out, kids have sexual thoughts and motivations too. But yeah, that’s definitely taboo here in the states, so we all tend to view things through that filter.
    Vern, I don’t think anyone here is saying that you believe “violence is fine but absolutely no nudity”- although I haven’t read every comment here in full- but it’s a valid point that we Americans can easily separate reality from fiction when it comes to violence but get very uncomfortable with sexual issues.
    I can tell you I felt damned weird watching Let the Right One In when we got the split-second crotch shot of the vampire girl. Neutered boy or not, a fictional child’s crotch on the screen was deeply troubling and perplexing to me- even though there really was nothing particularly sexual about it and it certainly wasn’t meant to entice anyone.
    So I guess I’d say I believe Besson is no pervert, but I sure do understand why they edited this thing down for American audiences.
    “I’m more comfortable with the part of the fantasy where Leon and Mathilda blow away corrupt cops than the part where the little girl thinks she’s in love with the adult and he just goes along with it and never tells her to knock it off, even after getting kicked out of hotels because of it.” Man, I totally agree. But I’d like a better understanding of why we feel that way.

  118. dna — thats why to me, the way they portray it is very important. The cut I saw includes this subtext, but it seemed to me like it was INTENDED to make people uncomfortable, not to try and sell them a winking antisocial fantasy. It does make it kind of troublesome, though, when you add the information Vern found about Besson’s take on adult male / pre-pubescent girl relationships. That was what I was originally kind of mulling over, because the work kind of takes on a different context once you know what was on Besson’s mind at least somewhere. I don’t think anyone with any brains (although some without them) accused Terry Gilliam of being a sicko for TIDELAND, since his perspective on the inappropriateness of the sexual relationship clearly pervades that particular nightmare (though again, I have to say objectively it seems weird that the pedophile scene is what horrified people about that movie, in particular, given its general parade of nightmarish horrors). But if Gilliam was on record saying that he was kind of into relationships with young girls, it would be hard not to see that in his work, even in scenes which otherwise read as intentionally uncomfortable and tragic.

    Sort of like how its impossible not to see elements of that when you watch POWDER or JEEPERS CREEPERS once you know a thing or two about Victor Salva.

    And don’t worry Vern, I think we all know you’re a reasonable guy about these things. I just think its interesting to examine why we’re so comfortable with accepting one kind of antisocial fantasy (especially when it’s so blatant) but so patently UNcomfortable accepting another kind of antisocial fantasy (especially when it’s so ambiguous). I don’t think its wrong that we do, necessarily, just that its worth examining.

  119. Bryan & dna, I do think America is very sexual repressed country, but I do not think that is why I am uneasy with the relationship between Leon and Matilda. The reason I am not comfortable with the way it is portrayed is because Leon never really scolds her and says “no I am not interested, and that behavior is inappropriate for both of us”. I personally have always thought that Matilda was not really sexually attracted to Leon as much as she wanted to be an adult, and to her that meant acting like an adult, talking like an adult, and trying to fuck like an adult. That is why it creeps me out that Leon never really scorns her advances. She is a confused kid, but he is an adult and he should know better. How is he caring for her by allowing her to behave that way?

  120. I guess that’s because Leon’s kind of a child himself. He clearly doesn’t get what she’s doing, or he gets it but is too embarressed to aknowledge that he does, and acts like nothing’s happened. I guess it’s the only route Besson could go without making a big moral issue out of it.

  121. For what it’s worth, I honestly thought Leon (if we believe he’s a little slow) just didn’t know how to get Matilda to knock her behavior off or word it right. There’s definitely something mentally up with him so I just took it as him being (mostly) uncomfortable with her presence but just couldn’t figure out how to express his uncomfortableness or get her to stop. He is just kinda new to being around kids (he does try to entertain her with that pig oven mitt).
    Plus, in the scene where she tests Leon by putting the gun to her head, didn’t he say “I’m sick of your games, Matilda” that set her off into doing that? Not saying anyone’s wrong about anything, I just thought at points he did make it clear he knew this wasn’t right.
    Then again, he does say he loves her as she escapes the shootout, so…who knows. I kinda like the multiple ways you can interpret the material, even if it is creepy and fucked up and uncomfortable.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>