Léon15 ¦ 20th Anniversary Steelbook edition ¦ Blu-ray
There are obvious tell-tale signs of aging throughout life. There are the physical signs such as the greying of hair, the aching of bones and the middle of the night trips to the loo. Then there are more subtle signs. Like not finding Vic and Bob funny any more or moaning that they don't make music like they used to.
For fans of film, it can hit you just by looking at the new releases on Amazon and seeing the anniversary release of Luc Besson's Léon celebrating its 20th anniversary. Can it really be twenty years ago since it was first released? Bet you feel old now, huh?
Living in a rundown apartment in New York City with her family is 12 year old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). It's not a happy home however; not only is her father physically abusive to her, he also has shady connections with the criminal world.
One day they get a visit from a guy called Stansfield (Gary Oldman). He and his henchmen are looking for drugs and he's giving Mathilda's dad twelve hours to deliver them. If not, there'll be trouble.
Good to his word, Stansfield returns twelve hours later and when the drugs aren't offered, he and his men start shooting. Matilda isn't around to witness the horrors within her home and manages to find safety at the door of a neighbour, Léon (Jean Reno).
Léon is keen to keep himself to himself. He has good reason too, when you consider what he does for a living – he's a hitman for hire. He takes pity on Mathilda and decides to help her out with her current situation; after all, what's the point of having a particularly unique skill set if you can't help a friend out?
So yes, as Léon was released in the olden days of 1994, it is now twenty years old. Thankfully, unlike many of us (you know who you are), the film has stood the test of time remarkably well.
Arguably Besson's best film to date, it is, at its heart, an unusual love story, which would make many nervous these days with its relationship between a young girl and older man.
It was a film of firsts; it was the first English-speaking role for Moroccan-born Reno, as well as being the debut for the very young Portman. Portman gives an incredibly balanced performance that could still, to this day, be considered her best. Her face had a little more movement than usual and there's a scene where she actually laughs out loud. No sign either of the Portman trademark fragility, that so often makes her look like a real-life porcelain doll that the Chinese would pay big bucks for. Here, she's the original kick-ass hero, who swears more than she should for her age and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.
Reno too gives a sublime performance; he doesn't have to do much but you know from his actions that he has great affection for this young girl. And it's not difficult to understand why he wants to protect her.
Not one to be outdone is our very own Oldman. He appears to have gone soft in his old age, with dull parts in both the Harry Potter and Dark Knight franchises. Here though, he embraces the evil within his character and creates cinematic sparks the likes of which have rarely been seen since, making his performance nothing short of mesmerising.
Besson directs the action with the precision of a conductor, with each set piece a rhythmic movement that sweeps you along wave after wave. Not only does he show a lot of affection for his main characters but also for the urban landscape they live in, with the New York City backdrop lovingly shot too.
The disc comes with the original theatrical release as well as the Director's cut, which features an extra 25 minutes of footage.
It's easy to label a film as a modern classic - some might even say lazy - but where Léon is concerned, the praise is completely justified. Although it may leave you feeling a tad older, there's no denying that they really don't make films like this any more – but that's exactly what you'd expect old fogies to say.