The Professional - Luc Besson

One of those movies I consider a guilty pleasure without having to be ashamed of it, The Professional is hip, stylish thriller about the bond between a lonely hitman and a girl that he takes in after her family is killed by a corrupt DEA agent. Jean Reno is outstanding as the hitman Leon with a heart and conscience and Natalie Portman is both innocent and hardened as Mathilda, the hitman’s young charge. Gary Oldman steals the show, however, as Stansfield, the drug-addled DEA agent.

Some have protested the relationship between Leon and Mathilda as too racy, considering Mathilda’s young age. But it’s neither sexual nor manipulative; the two really do grow to love each other. The action scenes, especially the final gunfight as a whole squad attempts to take Leon in a seedy tenement, are excellent and pulse-pounding. It’s a great, action-packed thriller that has definite influence from John Woo, on both visceral and emotional levels.

If you can, track down the uncut International version, which further explores the relationship between Leon and Matilda, as well as Leon’s past. It just adds to the emotional undercurrents of the film, and makes an already powerful and exciting film that much more so.