Director: Luc Besson. Starring: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello. USA 1994. 110 mins.
Following the acclaimed Subway, The Big Blue and Nikita, Leon was Luc Besson's eagerly awaited Hollywood debut. The eponymous Leon (Jean Reno) leads an isolated life as a 'cleaner': a cold, calculating man who drinks milk, lovingly tends to his plant, watches Gene Kelly movies, and kills people for a living. Mathilde (Natalie Portman) is a headstrong, streetwise 12-year-old who seeks refuge in Leon's flat when her family are murdered by a corrupt Drugs Enforcement Agency team headed by Stansfield (a marvellously over-the-top Gary Oldman). Determined to avenge her young brother, Mathilde begs Leon to teach her his trade, and the mismatched couple form an unusual partnership. Stylish direction and photography, a visceral portrayal of New York and splendid performances from the three leads, especially Natalie Portman in her screen debut, ensure that Leon is not just another violent thriller.