The Professional (1994)

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Coming-of-Age, Buddy Film  |   Release Date - Nov 18, 1994 (USA)  |   Run Time - 133 min.  |   Countries - France , Turkey , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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With his breakthrough, La Femme Nikita, director Luc Besson injected operatic, Die Hard-style Hollywood action into a European-style storyline; in his first Hollywood feature, Léon (retitled The Professional for U.S. release), he did the opposite, creating a cross between a placid, neorealist fable and a pyrotechnics-laden action movie. Jean Reno is convincing as the quiet, stealthy New York City hitman who reluctantly takes in a rough-hewn, 12-year-old apprentice killer (Natalie Portman, in her first screen role). Their scenes together are sweeter than they are shocking, and Besson keeps their relationship just within the realm of believability. Many critics found the Portman character exploitative, but the actress' preternaturally confident screen presence prevents her from being used as a victim. The only sore spot is Gary Oldman's histrionic performance as a corrupt DEA agent; Besson lets his scenes run for what seems like an eternity.