The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Columbia/Sony Pictures - 1994
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 133 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English/French/Portuguese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello
Written & Directed by: Luc Besson
Music by: Eric Serra
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 17, 2009
"No women, no kids"
Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello star in LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL, a go-for-broke thriller about a professional assassin whose work becomes dangerously personal. Calling himself a "cleaner," the mysterious Léon 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. But Mathilda doesn't just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Léon helps her track the psychotic agent who murdered her family.
Leon is a compelling film about two people thrown together by life changing circumstances who come to share a bond that will unite them in spirit forever. Leon (Reno) is a mafia hit man working for Tony. He came to NYC straight from Italy at 19 years old after avenging the death of the only woman he ever loved by killing the man responsible. He came from a poor background, with little experience in life, or the ways of the big city. Since his arrival he keeps to himself and goes about his work with stealth like and ruthless precision that has earned him a reputation in the underworld. Mathilda (Portman) is a preteen living with her father, four year old brother, teenage step sister and step mother. Her life to this point hasn't been an ideal one as she suffers physical and mental abuse from everyone except her little brother whom she loves dearly. She and Leon live in the same apartment building just doors apart and often exchange looks or casual banter but nothing more. Her father is in cahoots with a group of crooked DEA agents whom he holds illicit drugs for. When some of the drugs come up missing Stansfield (Oldman), the head of the DEA squad, comes calling while Mathilda is out at the grocery store. Stansfield and his men murder the entire family which accidentally included her brother who was hiding under a bed. Being the streetwise 12 year old she is, upon her return she sees the mayhem from the hallway and goes to Leon's apartment pretending that she lives there. He reluctantly lets her in saving her from the fate of her family. This begins their association as Leon now has his structured seemingly quiet life turned upside down by a preteen adolescent hell bent on retribution. What neither of them is prepared for is the escalation of their relationship after Mathilda coerces Leon into instructing her in the art of cleaning. The difference in their ages not withstanding Leon and Mathilda differ little in terms of their emotional maturity. He can be childlike and guileless while she can be wise beyond her years, unscrupulous and undaunted. By the same token they are each capable of any of the aforementioned attributes which makes them a good team. With only limited training Mathilda decides to confront Stansfield on her own. She fails to comprehend the truly cunning, sadistic and frivolous way which Stansfield perceives killing and underestimates him. She gets in over her head and Leon must step from the shadows of the world that has kept him known only through whispers and legend in order to save her.
I have loved this film since the first time I saw it on DVD. It is so much more than just a story about a hit man that helps a little girl seek revenge on those responsible for the death of her family. It's a romance that eschews the standardized meaning that we commonly associate with that word. It doesn't do this in a way that feels dirty or inappropriate in my opinion. It depicts two people that share a common experience which draws them together on an emotional level that satisfies their need to truly care for someone and be truly cared for in return. This transcends the boundaries of age and is solidified by a shared purpose that will inevitability be their undoing. The performances by Jean Reno, young Natalie Portman (in her film debut), and Gary Oldman make for a thoroughly engrossing film. To watch Gary Oldman is to love him because he is simply amazing. This film made me a permanent Jean Reno fan. He and Natalie Portman share wonderful onscreen chemistry which helped enliven their characters making it easy to care about them. I have seen it a half dozen times and it never loses it luster. Writer/director Luc Besson absolutely nails it with superb pacing, creative direction, and an engaging story that is replete in its ability to elicit emotive audience reaction that is further augmented by brief but superlative action and lightly veiled humor. I prefer the extended version versus the U.S. theatrical release (Sony has included both on this blu-ray disc woo hoo!) as I feel it is more complete and true from a conceptually standpoint. I am thrilled that it has finally made its way onto Blu-ray Disc and a permanent place in my collection.
The rating is for scenes of strong graphic violence, thematic material and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Leon: The professional comes to Blu-ray Disc from Columbia/Sony Pictures featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 5.5 mbps.
Having owned this film on DVD several times I am pretty familiar with how it looks on home video. Hands down this high definition presentation from Sony presents it in its absolute best light and it looks superb. Images onscreen appear transparent with exquisite detail and a near infinite sense of depth. At times I found the visuals, such as the sequence where Leon and Mathilda are on the rooftop overlooking Central Park, to be breath taking. Colors are kept to lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks with occasional use of brighter hues that naturally invigorate the video. The sepia toned colors reveal plenty of subtle delineation. The various shades of gray/light blue have appreciable gradational steps that enhance depth. Skin tones are lustrous, tonally rich and chock full of fine textural nuance Blacks are inky, dynamic and stable. Contrast is bold and punchy which sometimes overdrives whites resulting in loss of detail. There are a handful of instances where resolution falls off just slightly however this appears innate and never infringes upon fidelity. Regardless this is a three dimensional visually rewarding, and near reference video presentation that finds this catalog release title looking better than I have ever seen it.
This is a high bitrate and excellent sounding lossless audio encoding from Sony. I would not describe this as an aggressive sound mix but rather an intuitive one. The mix doesn't overemphasize the elements present in the recording in an attempt enhance the surround experience. I have always appreciated that about this film on DVD and with the higher resolution in this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack it sounds even better. The result is well balanced and supremely articulate surround sound that has excellent dynamic range and multi-stage imaging. Primarily this is a dialogue driven film however the action based sequences are quite involving as the sounds of atmospheric ambience, sprinkling water, flying bullets, and exploding debris encompass the listening area. Eric Serra's music sounds simply marvelous as its subtle instrumentation flows throughout the soundstage with exacting clarity and smooth tonal influence. Voices are textured and lucid through the center channel. Bass response during the action sequences was not as extended as I anticipated but does support explosions and gunfire with appreciable tactility. What I find to be of note relative to bass response is the rich, room shuttering low end associated with the synthesized LFE and low pitched resonance of the bass drum that accompanies the music. It is used to accentuate intense moments in the film and the effects are excellent as it extends deep with tight, robust and palpable bass that resonates throughout the room. This audio/video presentation represents a clearly definitive improvement over the previous home video releases of this film and comparatively speaking holds its own against some of the better catalog titles I have seen released on Blu-ray.
- 10 year retrospective: Cast and crew look back - 25 minutes
- Jean Reno: The road to Leon - 12 minutes
- Natalie Portman: Starting young - 14 minutes
- Fact track (extended version only)- Text based pop-up facts
- (HD) Previews:
- The DaVinci code extended cut
- Close encounters of the third kind
- The taking of Pelham 123
- Angels and Demons
- District 9
- BD-Live enabled
Leon: the professional is an extraordinary and compelling film that expertly draws us into the world inhabited by Leon and Mathilda. It allows us a fly on the wall perspective that provides both a surface and in depth look at the development of the bond between two lost souls who together come to share important experiences that run deeper than simply a quest for retribution. Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman bring these characters to life while writer/director Luc Besson masterfully pulls the strings in this wonderfully engaging opus that is a personal favorite. Sony's consistency in the quality of their high definition catalog release titles is among the best and this is no exception. From a technical standpoint this is a superb presentation that easily bests any of the standard definition renditions available on home video. The bonus supplements are just average in quantity however I found the three documentaries to be worth watching especially if you're a fan. Bottom line is that this is a highly recommended film that is well worth the price of admission. Enjoy!
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