As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn’t much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy.
Not for everyone. As the synopsis says, it is quite graphically violent. It is also…oddly sweet. Damaged souls who find each other and form a new family, a plot device that has been used often – though not often so well.
The story is engaging, the direction is beautiful, the performances are absolutely top notch. You may find Gary Oldman’s turn a bit much, it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it bit of overacting. I found it deliciously psychotic.
And there is simply no way you could watch this movie and not see the future stardom in store for a young Natalie Portman.
It loses a bit on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the violence & language. But, if you can handle a fair amount of blood and cussing, this movie should be on your list.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 94%