Leon


Viewed – 08 February 2014  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Edition

I remember seeing a trailer to this way back when and going fairly blindly to see it in the cinema.  Me and a friend of mine were blown away by it, and it quickly became one of our all time favourite movies.  The story of twelve year old Mathilda (a brilliant debut from Natalie Portman) who in the aftermath of her family being wiped out takes refuge in the company of the shy, illiterate hitman who lives down the corridor (Jean Reno) … a friendship blossoms and soon she’s hatching a plot to take revenge.  Gary Oldman is a corrupt DEA agent who cracks pills between his teeth and listens to Beethoven whilst killing people who rip him off – and orchestrating all this with finesse and skill is French new-wave director Luc Besson (Nikita, The Fifth Element) to a soundtrack by Eric Serra.

Leon Natalie Portman_edited

This is a movie that has it all, great performances from the street-wise but naive Portman all cocky but falling apart at the seams, to Reno’s subtle and convincing portrayal of a child in a man’s body who just happens to know how to kill.  Then there is Oldman, in possibly his craziest but most memorable role (get me eeeeeeeeeeverybody!!!) as well as a very good supporting turn by Danny Aiello.  Then there is Besson … arguably his finest movie, with such poetic, ice-cool camera work enhanced by an amazing soundtrack and moments of slick action executed with the utmost style and panache.  This may not be an action-heavy movie (it really only has two scenes here) but the tension that builds up, and the great performances throughout, peppered with well judged humour and such emotion … this is one of the few movies I would genuinely call a masterpiece.

This 20th Anniversary Edition by Studio Canal boasts a decent HD image quality that has some vibrant colour and good detail, especially in close-ups.  Softness rears its head in places but overall this is a very pleasing presentation.  For this movie too the 5.1 DTS Master Audio Soundtrack is excellent with a really immersive soundstage and great clarity throughout.  The Blu-ray houses both cuts of the movie and although I chose to watch the tighter Theatrical Version, I would recommend fans check out the extended Director’s Cut for such extra scenes like Mathilda’s Russian roulette scene, the extra hits that Leon takes Mathilda on and a few more moments of Mathilda’s inappropriate advances towards her hitman friend (!).  Extras however are poor, with just two interviews and a noticeably absent Besson, Oldman or Portman with no commentary, something Besson never does anyway – so no big shock there.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

Hitman


Viewed – 11 April 2008  DVD

Videogame adaptations have had a rocky history on the big screen, and many will have you believe that videogames just don’t make good movies.  I’ll agree that the likes of Street Fighter and Super Mario have been turned into utter pointless shite – but then again, these are games with no real story, and thats why the likes of Silent Hill and Resident Evil have faired better, even if they still came in for criticism.

So turning one of my favourite videogame franchises into a movie, in the name of I.O. Interactive’s seminal Hitman – I and many fans thought this just could not fail.  Overall, the casting of Die Hard 4.0 bad guy Timothy Olyphant as the deadly professional killer ’47’ works brilliantly, and his iconic red tie and tux complete with bald head and bar code tattoo is realised perfectly.  Thankfully the (often violent) action is handled just as well, with some great shoot outs, an impressive subway sword fight and stylish direction throughout.  What doesn’t work is the very simplistic plot, a villain with no charm or presence, and a few too many twists that make your head hurt.  Dougray Scott’s special agent who is on 47’s trail lends some weight to proceedings, and a sexy down on her luck prostitute becomes an unwelcome love interest for our normally lone Hitman, but thankfully things don’t get too slushy.  Only a brief running time stops the film having much of a plot to care about or any time to breathe between gunfights – although that said this still proves to be an exciting and stylish 90 minutes that kept a smile on my face.

Verdict:  3 /5