Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin's trade.
After her father, mother, older sister and little brother are killed by her father's employers, the 12-year-old daughter of an abject drug dealer is forced to take refuge in the apartment of a professional hitman who at her request teaches her the methods of his job so she can take her revenge on the corrupt DEA agent who ruined her life by killing her beloved brother. Written by
J. S. Golden
Masterpiece of violent Characterisations and fast action-shooting
An interview with Anne Parillaud, in the Evening Standard, 24.8.90, it was said that the message of Nikita is not one of violence but the idea is that people who are full of despair and missing love are not alone.
This idea continues in Léon. Léon was Besson's first foray into international film production. The similarities, or parallels, between Nikita and Léon are undoubted. Both the central protagonists attempt to come to terms with their dysfunctionality, to society, against a background of violence, which they both continue to act upon as the agent of someone else. There is no clean difference (we may also include Le Dernier Combat for comparison.) The only difference is gender.
I always found that until obtaining the "Version Integral" there was a character hole in the plot. The original cut released for US audiences was felt, by Besson, had an "offending" scene cut which ruined later scenes. The American test audiences hated it, seeing it as perverse and paedophiliac. The film was still panned by US critics as quasi-child pornography on general release. What it to be understood about this film, and this is what infuriated Besson, is that the film is about pure love. Not sex, which is all the Americans, could see.
And so we have ascertained that the characters in Besson's films are, simply, great. Then there is the action which is all the grace and style of Nikita. Typical of Besson's style with fast action-shooting and violent characterisation. This has to be one of Jean Reno's and by far Natalie Portman's best screen performance. To me, Gary Oldman plays his part to the tee, said by some magazines to be the best screen bad guy - it is one of his best performances.
Stylisation and excess are hallmarks of Besson's work. Characters are larger than life. Décors are in excess of realism. Besson's characters lack psychological depth. "The sumptuous and the ornate cohabit with the violent or the vulgar." Besson's use of excess is also extremely playful mixing violence with humour. Besson's work appeals to the tastes of popular culture and may not please that of the elite - arguably a reason for the rejection of his work by many intellectual film journals.
I have yet to hear of a person putting a bad word against this film. There is nothing I can personally fault so I give this film 10/10, a score only two other somewhat different films hold in my IMDb list of 345 films - "The Wizard of Oz" and "La Cité des Enfants perdu". If you like French Cinema or consider yourself a cinephile you must see the latter.
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