This following is the next entry in a series of blog events spearheaded by Fandango Groovers and Movie Mobsters. Today we are all highlighting signature and essential films of the action genre (read Things That Explode). Go,See,Talk is happy to be asked back and contribute to this blog-a-thon once again. So lock n’ load action junkies and let me tell you why our featured film deserves recognition as a pillar of ACTION.
“Manny, bring me everyone”…”What do you mean everyone?”…”EVERYONE!!!!”
You have shoot ’em up movies, hitman movies, action movies and then you have Leon. This is the story of an introverted shut-in who just so happens to be a world class hit man or “cleaner”. He lives by a few but important rules: sleep with one eye open, have no roots and as far as jobs go it’s just as cut and dry, “five grand a head, no women, no kids”. He’s so concise that I think The Terminator was more glib than Leon actually. But that’s not to say he doesn’t have a heart, no, it’s just like any muscle in the human (or assassin’s) body – he’s simply never exercised it. So while he lacks simple communication skills like reading/writing, his assassin skills are paramount and he’s the smoothest, most dangerous operator you’ve ever seen.
In the film, Leon (Jean Reno) saves young Mathilda (Natalie Portman) after a crooked DEA agent (the fantastic Gary Oldman) murders her family. As she has nowhere else to go she stays with him and slowly she grows on him. Mathila teaches Leon simple social skills and he teaches her to be a hitman (to take out the agents who killed her family). Sweet little revenge story don’t you think? But here’s where this particular version of the film takes more prominence than some coming of age story. Largely considered to be two different movies, the “International version” has 24 minutes of essential character development. Those missing bits caused a stir with some conservative American audiences and they balked at the content. Understandable as it shows young Mathilda’s “cleaning” scenes and her falling in love with Leon.
Unlike definitive American actioners, this isn’t “running gunning explosions” from start to finish. Leon uses action sparingly but those scenes are intense, specifically the stellar shootout finale. Weaving an engaging and endearing story amongst the action gives the scenes meaning making it impacting rather than just mere spectacle. Arguably (aside from The Fifth Element) this is Luc Besson’s finest work and one that defines action, redefines it than blows the shit out of it; Leon is a tough act to beat. It is simply top notch action, has incredible amounts of heart and retains something that actioners are severely lacking these days – super high replay value.
If the action genre were a man, his name would be Leon…