This has long been one of my favorite movies for many reasons, almost none of them political. Mostly I like it because it’s the first movie I ever saw with Jean Reno in it. He’s become one of my favorites. He’s an understated, underrated, excellent Italian actor who has since been in several movies including DeNiro’s Ronin.
In this movie, he plays a quiet, unassuming, simple man named Leon who happens to be one of the best assassins in the mafia’s arsenal. He lives an extremely simple life and “banks” all of his money with the mob boss who employs him. When his neighbors, a small time crook and his family, get killed by some drug kingpins he owes money to, the crook’s daughter (played by a very young Natalie Portman) is taken in by Leon.
Unsure of what to do next, the two embark on an adventure that eventually leads to retribution against the drug kingpin, who, it turns out, is more than he seems.
Most of the movie, however, doesn’t really revolve around the killing so much as it does the awakening of Leon to a larger world and the emotional changes he goes through as he grows to love this child and realize what it means to be more than just a simpleton robot.
The scene that really makes this movie, though, is where the two of them are walking down the street, he carrying a briefcase (that happens to hold his arsenal) and she carrying his plant (his “best friend”). As they walk down the street, you see his ill-fitting water-wader pants and dark glasses and her scruffy appearance, hand-in-hand.
Yet at the same time, the contrast is when Leon is at work and the dorky, simpleton becomes a cold, fast-moving, master assasin working up close and personal with his “clients.”
A great movie and definitely worth seeing at least once.