Leon: The Professional (1994)

Part “La Femme Nikita,” part “Lolita,” Luc Besson’s masterpiece “Leon: The Professional” plays both like an American blockbuster and a European art film at the same time, and somehow it’s not only a successful experiment in blending disparate genres, but has become a signature movie by the always-reliable Besson. With first-rate performances by leads Jean Reno and Natalie Portman (in her film debut) and a gleefully over-the-top, maniacal Gary Oldman, Besson manages to strike a balance between his kinetic, hyperactive camera and the surprisingly compelling character dynamics, while perfectly utilizing an unexpectedly majestic score that underlines the story’s violent and heartbreaking nature. There are few movies quite as distinctive as “Leon: The Professional,” and cemented Besson as an international auteur to watch.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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