Alright, how about we talk about the elephant in the room before we get into the nitty gritty here? They say that holding things in is not healthy and besides, not talking about the big issue will distract from the rest of the review. You will be waiting for it and I will be holding it back and you will be skimming everything that comes before it. You are skimming right now, aren’t you? Of course, I am talking about the famous line delivery of “Everyone!” by Gary Oldman. I have seen it mocked over and over in various spotlights of bad or silly line deliveries. The clip is pretty funny but it is just one facet of this movie. You should not judge this movie based on that one fact as I tried my best not to. Wait, did you think I was talking about the controversial part that Natalie Portman played? We’ll talk about that in a bit.
The movie is directed by Luc Besson, a french director that I have come to appreciate greatly even though he earned me as a fan back in 1997. That is the year that The Fifth Element came out which was a movie I absolutely adored and I have seen it several times over. Besson also did Run Lola Run which is an action cult classic movie that I also enjoyed. I have not yet seen all of Besson’s stuff but it is actually one of my goals. His understanding of action scenes is right up there with Woo, Tarantino and may of the great stunt spectacular directors. There is also a lot of touching human emotion in what I have seen of his work.
A lot of the action parts of the movie are silly in all the best ways. Leon is a ruthless killer who is almost supernatural in skill. He is a very cool customer in high contrast to Jean Reno’s other appearances in movies widely released in the United States. I mean, it’s a far cry from what you may have seen in 1998’s Godzilla. He is a badass killer but he has an interesting sense of humor that you might not catch if you were in the wrong mood. And yet, there’s a side to him that still embraces humanity and yearns for a little happiness. He’s a secret goofball. This actually plays really well and the character is very balanced. The way his character works is crucial to the three-part formula of this movie.
Natalie Portman is an interesting little creature in this movie. She is playing an eleven-year-old who is full of deep-seated ennui before the movie starts. She is an abused girl who feels neglected by life but not the maudlin little Dickens character you might expect. There is an intense sadness in her that is often hidden behind anger and a slight sense of humor. When the movie starts she is starving for attention but, like the Roald Dahl character of the same name, she is largely ignored by her family. There is some critical response to her character’s relationship with the older Leon but I don’t see a problem. She forms a unique bond with Leon but it’s more like friendship and family than anything untoward. The bond is intimate and there are certainly some iffy moments but reading anything else into it is kind of insulting.
Gary Oldman is a national treasure in this movie. Of course, which nation is up for grabs since this is ostensibly a French film. His character is insanity. I thought that Heath Ledger had captured insanity with the Joker. As good as that performance was, Oldman is so much better. He is barely contained insanity that could lash out at anybody around him which includes the thugs who work for him. His character is a joy to watch but you end up worried about what he will do next. He is a great villain in that he absolutely believes the horrible things he does are the right thing to do. While the clip below may seem over the top (and it is) it does grow organically from the monster Norman Stansfield is.
The soundtrack is absolutely a delight to listen to while watching the movie but Besson always has well-composed soundtracks. It is listed as a crime thriller but I think that is a misnomer even though I see those elements in it too. The movie shifts genres as it rolls along which makes it a great watch. Still, it is a hard movie to classify. Go check it out for yourself, I definitely recommend it.