Saturday, 21 April 2012

Leon (1994)

A film I've been meaning to watch for a while but have been putting off again and again. It's quite high up on IMDB's toplist (#31), despite being quite off the radar for most people, so I was quite intrigued by the film. It's directed by a frenchman, Luc Besson, and it's pretty noticeable. While being set entirely in NYC, there's a certain atmosphere throughout the movie, particularly in the set design, that makes it feel very continental. It's hard to pin down, but I'd put it down largely down to the colour palette. Lots of beiges and browns without coming off as overly dirty.

Anyway, the basic plot follows the relationship between a hitman (or "cleaner") and a young girl, whom he takes in after her family down the hall from him are killed by a bunch of corrupt cops. It's a strange relationship, between a very young girl who's in a rush to grow up and has had no real romantic role models in her life, and a psychologically scarred, much older, man who grows to love her but in a much different way than she does him. Apparently I watched the extended cut of the film which, according to wikipedia, includes a large number of scenes dealing with the relationship between the two. I imagine the original cut was actually pretty boring, even if a bit more uncomfortable (from what I gather, a lot of the scenes where it's established that Leon doesn't want the same thing as Mathilda aren't included in the original cut). There's a cut scene in a restaurant that was really powerful in conveying the distance between the two, and I can't believe it wasn't included. Even with the additional scenes, the whole dynamic still left me with a pretty uncomfortable feeling though, which I imagine was the intent.

I've been a hardcore Natalie Portman fan for quite a while, but still it shocked me how good she was in this. Seeing as she was so young I was expecting typical child-actor fare, but she delivered a great performance with all the hallmarks you can still see in her work today, I guess she's got a natural talent that she's just been honing from the get-go. I've never seen Jean Reno in anything before, at least not that I can remember, but that's probably because I don't watch too many foreign films. Regardless, he's probably the standout here, striking a good balance between the troubled, broken hearted lonely guy and the man who does what he has to do to get his money. not erring too close to either end of that spectrum creates a believable character in a not-so-believable situation. Gary Oldman, as corrupt DEA agent Stansfield, delivers the most over the top performance of the piece, painting the picture of a psychotic killer with a power complex. the character might be a bit ridiculous, but it's entertaining and isn't so out there that it feels out of place with everything else.

All in all, a very well crafted piece with a strange, and at (quite a number of) times, awkward dynamic between the two main characters.

No comments:

Post a Comment