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

Colombiana


Viewed – 01 March 2012  DVD

Sometimes, It’s worth going on instinct and not listening to reviews when it comes to a movie.  That may be a strange thing to say as a reviewer myself, but we don’t always get it right.  Or we expect too much.  This can be said for this stylish thriller written by French filmmaker / producer Luc Besson and starring the very beautiful Zoe Saldana (Avatar).

Zoe plays a Colombian girl named Cataleya (yes, not Colombiana) who witnesses her parents get killed by gangsters, and vows revenge.  Travelling to Chicago and being brought up by her uncle, she soon becomes a professional assassin and plies her trade in hope that one day, she’ll find her father’s killer.  This is nothing new, and for Luc Besson, he trod very similar ground in the cult favourite La Femme Nikita.  Yet Zoe Saldana makes for a great ice-cool killer and the various hits are executed with panache (including a very cool Police Station sequence).  Supporting cast are mostly bland, no-name bit part actors who fit the Colombia-heavy stereotype and don’t do much more than look bad-ass and fire lots of guns.  Besson’s chosen director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3), name sounding like a Transformer aside, delivers a slick-looking experience and is obviously in love with his leading lady (who can blame him?).  The plot does rely on a few too many conveniences though, and some stuff  is very sloppily written, like the frankly bonkers way Cataleya’s identity gets discovered … yet overall this was fast and fun – just switch off that brain, and you’ll have a good time.

Verdict:  2.5 /5