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Leon - Director's Cut (Blu-ray) - Review

Leon

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical version; Jean Reno – The Road to Leon; 10 year making of retrospective; Natalie Portman – Starting Young; Trailer.

LUC Besson arguably turned in the finest film of his career with Leon, the violent tale of a hitman’s relationship with a 12-year-old girl who is on the run from a corrupt cop.

Packed with memorable scenes and top-notch performances, it’s a film that seems to get better and better the more you see it.

Leon (Jean Reno) is a reclusive assassin who is forced to come to the aid of 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) after her family are gunned down by corrupt cops led by the drug addicted Stansfield (Gary Oldman).

As the bond between them grows, Leon feels compelled to take action to ease the threat posed to his young charge, breaking his own code and going against the advice of friends to put a stop to Stansfield’s reign of terror.

Admittedly, Besson’s film lurks in knowingly provocative territory, with the central relationship between Leon and Mathilda constantly threatening to enter taboo areas.

Crucially, however, it never does courtesy of Reno’s curiously innocent portrayal of Leon, who befriends Mathilda on a child-like level more than a sexual one. It’s as though he sees in Mathilda something he never had, and will stop at nothing to ensure it isn’t betrayed.

Portman, for her part, is mesmerising as Mathilda, expertly capturing the mix of childhood innocence and growing sexuality with staggering confidence. It remains a performance she has yet to really better.

And then there’s Oldman as the fantastically OTT Stansfield, a jittery, unpredictable mad-man who is more than a match for Reno’s lethal assassin.

Besson ensures that every character shines in some way, allowing relationships to build without compromising on the action.

And when the violence breaks out, it’s terrifically stylised offering several set pieces that linger in the memory.

The release of the film on Blu-ray, and in director’s cut form, offers a real treat for fans of this enduring classic – both in the way that it enables fans to see and appreciate Besson’s original vision and the clarity of his direction.

It remains as exhilarating and emotionally engaging a watch now as it was when first released.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 136mins
UK Blu-ray Release: September 14, 2009