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Old 07-30-2015, 11:52 AM
Malthus is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Toronto
Posts: 18,184
Seen (and later re-watched with my wife): Leon: The Professional, a 90s fractured fairytale/action/love story (of sorts).

Never saw it when it came out, which was probably a good thing, as the initial cut of the movie was missing nearly half an hour - stuff cut for being too upsetting for audiences in screening. The missing scenes were added back in later.

I thought it was excellent - both moving and disturbing.

On the surface, it's an action movie about an apparently unstoppable hitman. Nothing about his actions are in the slightest realistic, which doesn't detract from the movie - it isn't intended to be; this is more like a fairy-tale than a police procedural. He kills gangsters at the order of his boss, disappearling like a ghost.

However, we soon discover that this hitman is a lonely and broken fellow, living a crappy life in a run-down apartment - his only friend is his house-plant, his only amusement watching old movies.

The real heart of the movie is the odd relationship he strikes up with the neighbor kid, a 12 year old played by Natalie Portman. She absolutely stars in this role, the best child acting I think I've ever seen.

Suffice it to say her role is very disturbing. It's a 20 year old movie, but still, maybe in spoiler:

SPOILER:
She is clearly an abused child - she is beaten by her family; in one pivotal scene, the hit-man fellow hands her a hankerchief to staunch the blood dripping from her face. Her dad is a thieving drug-dealer and her step-mom is a prostitute. The only one she cares for is her little brother. They are all killed by psychotic crooked cops - her dad had ripped them off - and she is (reluctantly) saved by the hit-man.

Thereafter, she worms her way into his life, trying to convince him to teach her the hit-person skills necessary to exact bloody vengence on the murderers. He's very reluctant to do anything of the sort - but she is plausible and manipulative. In a scene cut from the original release, she basically puts a gun to her own head and threatens to kill herself if the hitman doesn't agree to her plan - he knocks the gun away at the last second.

Throughout she develops a crush on him, apparently the only adult ever to be nice to her - much to his discomfort - and the subtext of sexual tension between them becomes unsettlingly overt: she expressly propositions him (in a scene again cut from the original release). He turns her down. But at the same time, she becomes, basically, the centre that is lacking in his aimless, murderous life.


In a lesser movie, this stuff would seem grossly exploitive. It is a tribute to the skills involved - directing and acting - that it works.