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Leon the Professional (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 1, 2017 by  



“Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!

Image courtesy of © 1994 Gaumont and Les Films du Dauphin. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Leon the Professional

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1994

DURATION: 109 Minutes (Theatrical Version)/133 Minutes (Extended Version)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible), French, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Scenes of Strong Graphic Violence and for Language)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Executive Producer: Claude Besson

Line Producer: John Garland and Bernard Grenet

Music by Eric Serra

Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast

Edited by Sylvie Landra

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Dan Weil

Art Direction by Gerard Drolon

Set Decoration by Francoise Benoit-Fresco

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci


Starring:

Jean Reno as Leon

Gary Oldman as Stanfield

Natalie Portman as Mathilda

Danny Aiello as Tony

Peter Appel as Malky

Michael Badalucco as Mathilda’s father


The mysterious Léon (Jean Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, THE PROFESSIONAL is a nonstop crescendo of action and suspense. After winning a competition to spend a week at the mountain estate of his company’s party hardy CEO, programmer Caleb Smith arrives to discover he has been chosen to take part in a study of artificial intelligence. Sworn to secrecy and cut off from the outside world, Caleb meets his subject, a beguiling and seductive cyborg named Ava (Alicia Vikander) – and is plunged into an A.I. experiment beyond his wildest imaginings in this epic thriller charged with heart-stopping suspense.


Hot after his film “La Femme Nikita”, in 1994 Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, writer of “The Transporter” films) would go on to work on his film “Leon” (Leon the Professional). The film was written and directed by Besson and featured music by Eric Serra (“The Fifth Element”, “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, “GoldenEye”) and cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (“Babylon AD”, “Femme Fatale”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, “The Messanger: The Story of Joan of Arc).

The film would reunite Besson with popular French action star Jean Reno (Mission: Impossible”, “Ronin”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Pink Panther”) who he worked on in “Nikita” and “Le grand bleu” and would be the first major film for 12-year-old actress at the time, Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episodes I-III”, “V for Vendetta”, “Paris, je ‘taime”). For the most part, the film received mostly positive critic reviews but also some controversy as the film would feature an older man raising a young girl and teaching her how the life of a hitman. Let alone, a 12-year-old who is attracted to an older man.

But the film is primarily about two people who find importance with each other. A hitman and a girl who lost her family and both are trying to survive.

“Leon the Professional” is about professional hitman Leon (Reno) who is known as a “Cleaner”. A man who works for mafia boss Tony (played by Danny Aiello, “Do the Right Thing”, “Lucky Number Slevin”, “Hudson Hawk”) and is skilled at making the kill and getting the target. Outside of being a hitman, Leon lives a calm, solitary life of working out, drinking milk and taking care of a plant (who he calls his best friend).

Each time he returns to his apartment, he sees a teenage girl named Mathilda (Portman) who looks as if she has been physically abused and smoking a cigarette. Meanwhile, Mathilda’s father (played by Michael Badalucco, “The Practice”) is shown having some major problems with corrupt DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents led by Stansfield (played by Gary Oldman, “The Fifth Element”, “Air Force One”, “Sid and Nancy”, “Harry Potter” films). The agents have been paying Mathilda’s father to store illegal drugs in his apartment and appears to be stealing the drugs.

They give him a chance to recover the drugs and then we get to see the life of Mathilda, her father and family at the home. Mathilda is quite distant from her father and her older sister. She is close to her four year old brother but her home life is very dysfunctional. But Mathilda goes out to buy some groceries for her family.

While she’s out, Stansfield and the corrupt DEA agents storm the home and kills Mathilda’s father and the family members. While Mathilda returns, she realizes that something bad has happened and instead of going straight into her home, because DEA agent is posted outside the door, she goes straight towards Leon’s home and cries and pleads for him to open the door. Leon being the loner, doesn’t want to but seeing the anguish on her face, he allows her to come in. Stansfield realizes that not all family members are dead and now wants to find Mathilda.

This begins the life of Leon the Professional who takes care of Mathilda and are seen staying in different hotels as he works on his hits. But with Mathilda wanting revenge for her brother’s death, requests Leon to train her on how to become a “cleaner”. But as Leon has trouble with being close to anyone, the young 12-year-old starts to fall in love with the hitman. Meanwhile, Stansfield will do whatever he can to find the missing girl.

“Leon the Professional” had an original theatrical release but there was an extended version (or Director’s Cut) featuring an extra 24-minutes of footage which focuses on Leon training Mathilda but also the emotional connection the two have for each other. Both are included on the 4K Ultra HD release and personally, I prefer the extended version as the screenplay focuses a lot on the friendship between Leon and Mathilda.


VIDEO:

When I first saw “Leon the Professional”, I admit that I was happy. Why? Many films created between 1986-1996 and released on Blu-ray, some really look their age, transfer is not all that great or is very soft but for “Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD, the colors are vibrant, black levels are great and deep and detail can be seen. The old buildings that Leon and Mathilda live in, you can see all the cracks and how old they look. It just seems much more clearer. Sharpness is great and the colors just pop. There is a nice amount of grain as well and no softness. This doesn’t look like a film that is 15-years-old. So, needless to say…picture quality is fantastic.

With that being said, this 2017 4K Ultra HD release is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Featured in English 7.1 Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

There are really good action sequences and gun fights that really utilize the soundscape from the front, center and surround channels. Especially during the final confrontation, the film sounds great. Music by Eric Serra also helps create the mood. For the most part, this is not an action film that is overly aggressive as most of the film is dialogue-based between Leon and Mathilda but for the most part, when the action scenes do happen, you’ll definitely hear those gun shots, machine gun rattling, explosions really clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Leon the Professional” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • 10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back – (25:09) A featurette released on the 2004 DVD. A virtual reunion with interviews with the cast talking about a film they made 10 years ago. How the film came to be made and how the talent were cast for the film.
  • Jean Reno: The Road to Leon – (12:25) A featurette about Jean Reno, his personal life of him growing up and his previous works that led to him playing the character of Leon.
  • Natalie Portman: Starting Young – (13:49) Natalie Portman talks about reading the script at 11-years-old and wanting to do the part despite her parents feeling it was inappropriate. Working with Jean Reno and Luc Besson and how she was able to accomplish those emotional crying scenes and more.
  • Fact Track (Extended Version) – Viewers can watch the extended version of the film with a fact track.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Leon the Professional”.

EXTRAS:

“Leon the Professional” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


“Leon the Professional” is a riveting, action-packed film. And for those who are familiar with Luc Besson films, you expect intense gunfighting sequences and plenty of destruction. Granted, he has done a lot more of that now with recent films but back in 1994, “Leon the Professional” was entertaining then and 15-years later, continues to be quite entertaining now.

Jean Reno is really good playing those action, hitman type of scenes. He’s a tough guy but Luc Besson knows how to utilize his character quite well in his films. Gary Oldman is always a fantastic villain and his character Stansfield is just repulsive. Murdering young children definitely made the viewer want either Leon or Mathilda to really get their revenge on him by the end of the film. And the way it played out, was well-done. But as Reno and Oldman were fantastic, Natalie Portman was incredible. The actress demonstrated in this film that she can be an actress that can excel in emotional scenes and for the most part, back in 1994, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would grow up to be an actress to watch for. Overall, great acting by the three main characters of the film.

As for the controversy which led the film to be cut for its theatrical version, I can understand where opposition groups were coming from. Mathilda was a child that was raised in a dysfunctional setting and she has been emotionally damaged that the only person that she sees as her savior was Leon. A man who lives in isolation and his best friend is a plant. But of course, there is a sense of sadness that broods with the character of Leon and somehow, these two find comfort within each other. For Leon, it’s more of a friend, while Mathilda, looks at it her emotions as being in love. Nevertheless, for those who get disturbed by those scenes of Mathilda’s emotional anguish (ala Russian Roulette) and the fact that Leon trains Mathilda on how to kill people (using a paint gun), there is a theatrical version included on the Blu-ray that eliminates those scenes and an extended version that contains those extra 24 minutes.

As for the 4K UltraHD, I just felt the picture quality was fantastic for an early 90’s film. With quite a few 90’s films that looks its age, the amount of colors and detail for on this HD release is fantastic.  For those who purchased the 2015 Blu-ray release, the special features are the same. The main difference of course, is that this 4K Ultra HD version is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition, while the Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition.

Overall, “Leon the Professional” is a Luc Besson masterpiece. It’s one of the most exciting films to come out from Besson with action, emotion and just all-out frenzy that you just can’t stop watching! Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman are fantastic in this film and it’s a film that I highly recommended on 4K Ultra HD!






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