Jean Reno and Natalie Portman’s Myth!
Genre(s): Action | Crime | Drama | Suspense/Thriller
Written by: Luc Besson
Directed by: Luc Besson
Theatrical: November 18, 1994
DVD: May 22, 2001
Running Time: 110 minutes, Color
Starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, and Peter Appel
A go-for-broke thriller about a professional assassin whose work becomes dangerously personal. Calling himself a “cleaner”, the mysterious Leon (Reno) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Leon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor – 12-year-old Mathilda (Portman), but Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Leon helps her track the psychotic agent (Oldman) who murdered her family. (Sony)
Léon (Jean Reno) is a hitman (or “cleaner” as he would rather be known) living a solitary life in New York City’s Little Italy. Most of his work comes from a mafioso named Tony (Danny Aiello), who operates from the “Supreme Macaroni Company” retail store. Léon spends his idle time engaging in calisthenics, nurturing a houseplant that early on he describes as his “best friend”, and (in one scene) watching old Gene Kelly musicals.
On a particular day on his way home, he sees Mathilda Lando (Natalie Portman), a twelve-year-old girl with a black eye and smoking a cigarette, living with her dysfunctional family in an apartment down the hallway. Mathilda’s father (Michael Badalucco) attracts the ire of corrupt DEA agents, who have been paying him to store cocaine in his residence, after they discover that he has been stealing some of the drugs for himself. A cadre of DEA agents storm the building, led by a ragged and drug-addicted Norman “Stan” Stansfield (Gary Oldman), murders Mathilda’s entire family, missing her only because she was out shopping when they arrived. When she returns with the groceries she was sent to buy and notices the carnage, she calmly continues down the hallway past the open door of her family’s apartment, and receives sanctuary from a reluctant Léon.
Mathilda, who soon discovers that Léon is a hitman, begs him to become her caretaker, and to teach her his skills as a “cleaner”: she wants to avenge the murder of her four-year-old brother, the only member of her family that she actually loved. In return, she offers herself as a maid and teacher, remedying Léon’s illiteracy. Léon hesitantly accepts her offer and the two begin working together, slowly building an emotional attachment, with Léon becoming a friend and father figure. As they work together, Mathilda admits to Léon several times that she is falling in love with him, but he says nothing back.
As Mathilda increases her confidence and experience, she locates Stansfield, follows him to his office in the DEA building in an attempt to kill him, only to be ambushed by Stansfield in a bathroom. Léon, discovering her intentions after reading a note left for him by Mathilda, rushes to the building and rescues her, shooting two of Stansfield’s men in the process.
Stansfield is enraged that what he calls the “Italian hitman” has gone rogue and is killing his men. He confronts Tony and threatens him, eventually beating him into surrendering Léon’s whereabouts. Later, as Mathilda returns home from grocery shopping, an NYPD ESU team, sent by Stansfield, takes her hostage and attempts to infiltrate Léon’s apartment. Léon ambushes the ESU team and takes one of their members hostage, rapidly bartering him for Mathilda’s freedom. As they slink back into the apartment, Léon creates a quick escape for Matilda as he reassures her and tells her that he loves her moments before they come for him…