Pros: Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Direction, Story, Action, Score
Cons: A lttle too violent for some tastes
The Professional (1994)
I've had this DVD for quite a while and just never got around to writing down my thoughts. I watched it again tonight and got a few new impressions that made me want to get them down.
First was the initial introduction of Natalie Portman's character (Mathilda). All you see are her boots hanging down from the balcony and I immediately thought - motorcycle boots. Maybe it's because I recently got a new Harley and have been riding it, but I never noticed that before.
Secondly, the music score jumped out at me more than I had noticed before. The Eric Serra music really was well suited to the visuals and I had forgotten how strongly it was mated to the various characters and scenes.
OK, on to the movie: The Professional opens with a aerial shot over blue ocean water and finally homes in on the skyline of NYC. It continues down to street level and follows a street then a storefront materializes and the camera goes inside. We join a talking head smoking and speaking Italian, then he says, "Let's talk business."
He opens a file and produces a black and white 8x10 of a guy and says "he comes to town once in a while and he won't talk to so and so [the boss]. Make him understand." The other guy accepts the job and we are introduced to Leon (Jean Reno) a cleaner or hit man, as we more commonly call men of that trade.
What follows is a pretty scary example of just how good Leon is at his work. After this approximately 10 minute interlude, we see Leon going home on the subway early in the morning and going through his regular routine. He stops and buys two quarts of milk, trudges home with his briefcase full of guns and meets Natalie Portman, who is a 12-year old girl. He notices she has been smoking a cigarette and has fresh bruises. He notes that her family is very dysfunctional but doesn't say anything. He later peeks out through his secret peephole and observes some undercover cops shaking down Mathilda's father.
These are DEA men and they are as crooked as they come, headed up by Gary Oldman who is a very versatile villain. Oldman chews the scenery as a Beethoven loving psychopath who won't let any drug deals go through unless there is something in it for him.
We learn that Mathilda's father has been a drop for the DEA crew's drugs and he has stolen some. The chief tells the dad to find out who took them, by tomorrow noon. Of course he doesn't and the crew comes back and wastes the family, all except Portman who was out at the store. She comes straight to Leon's door and begs to be let in. He does, and that's how the movie develops. She is now his responsibility. Leon, a guy who has never up to now formed a stronger attachment than to a potted plant suddenly has a 12 year old girl to parent.
The movie plays out as a tragedy and its brilliance is in how the characters develop. Leon has been socially retarded and the little girl is precocious so through her influence we see him finally brought out to enjoy life. At the same time, the little girl emulates the hit man and learns enough to become dangerous. She precipitates a showdown with the DEA that brings on the climax of the film. At that crucial moment we can see how much Leon has come to love the little girl and soon after we recognize that her love was just as real.
The Professional has a great deal of care in the choice of camera angles and lighting. A lot of the story telling is in the visuals and you can see it a bunch of times and still notice new things. It is one of the few action films that is really top quality. Luc Besson should be commended.
The Columbia DVD has a pristine copy of the movie in 2.35:1 theatrical format, in color, and lasting 110 minutes.
This is an action film that can be watched on that level or more can be gleaned by the thoughtful viewer.