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DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 133 minutes, 10 Year Retrospective, Jean Reno: The Road to Leon, Natalie Portman: Starting Young, Fact Track, Bonus Previews


RELEASE DATE: 1-11-2005

ANALYSIS: I loved THE PROFESSIONAL (aka LEON to international audiences) when I first saw it on a bargain matinee double header an hour after I saw DISCLOSURE. It is the film that made me take notice of three actors: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman. Of the three, I follow Jean the closest from movie to movie as I hope THE CRIMSON RIVERS 2: ANGLES OF THE APOCALYPSE gets a US DVD release sometime this year.

LEON is about a 12 year old girl, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), whose family is murdered by corrupt DEA agents. She is taken in by Leon (Jean Reno), a hitman. She wants Leon to kill the DEA agents because one of them killed her four year old brother. Mathilda is forced to grow up too soon while Leon still hasn't grown up in his emotional development. His life is simple. He takes Mathilda on as an assistant as he teaches her how to be a cleaner (hitman). LEON is a truly a movie where Luc Besson brings his unique visual style to as many actors involved give some of their best performances of their careers. Besson knows how to mix drama and action in the same movie. LEON is the movie he did while he waited for THE FIFTH ELEMENT to get off the ground.

Now I have seen the Director's Cut which includes 24 minutes that were wrongfully cut from the original theatrical release (sometimes test audiences can get it so wrong).

LEON is a better movie than the original cut. LEON puts back in 26 minutes of footage including some important character development of Leon and Mathilda (mostly during chapter 20 and 26 on the DVD).

VIDEO/AUDIO: LEON is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. It is a Superbit transfer. Colors and blacks stand out. Grain does show up in the darker scenes. Image detail is nice at times, but sometimes it is a little soft. Depending on where you pause during the movie, the still quality varies from sharp to blurry. I wonder if this transfer is still from the same Columbia vault material used to create the transfers for the previous LEON DVDs and not the source print from Gaumont used for R2 and R3 DVDs of LEON.

You can hear LEON in English 5.1 Dolby digital or English DTS with the option of English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese subtitles (featurettes on disc 2 have the option of Spanish or Portuguese subtitles). Dialogue can be heard clearly, but the sounds of bullets being fired is the only thing that really stands out in the sound mix. I'm just not that impressed with the 5.1 DD mix compared to some of the great DD mixes I have heard. LEON's mix is average, but I've read that there was a problem with the sound mix on a previous release of LEON on DVD (which was corrected quickly). I have heard the DTS track is better than the 5.1 DD. I have also read that the surround sound on LEON DVDs in R2 and R3 countries is wonderful.


10 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE is a featurette on LEON as the people involved (except for director Luc Besson) talk about doing the movie (filmed in New York City and Paris).  Actress Maiwenn (Besson's girlfriend at the time) says LEON in a way is the story of her life told through the character of Mathilda. Also included is footage showing how they did the rocket effect near the end of the movie and what happened on the last day Natalie Portman was on set.

JEAN RENO: THE ROAD TO LENO is a short featurette focusing on the life of Jean Reno from going into the French military to acting in Luc Besson movies before Luc wrote LEON for Jean Reno to star in.

NATALIE PORTMAN: STARTING YOUNG is a 14 minute featurette as Natalie Portman reflects back on her first acting role. You see her fantastic screen test. She tells about the conditions her parents put on Luc Besson to have Natalie acting in the movie, stuff cut from the script, and her experiences of working on LEON (including the controversial scene cut from the US release). She credits the movie with launching her career (and she would play Mathilda again if Luc asked her).

All featurettes are in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.

The Fact Track provides some interesting bits of info about the actors and the movie. Some of the Fact Track could have been better as I watched the movie with the Fact Track on. Most of the facts are good, but some of them are pointless.


Too bad they didn't include trailers for THE CRIMSON RIVERS OR THE CRIMSON RIVERS 2: ANGELS OF THE APOCALYPSE (both star Jean Reno and THE CRIMSON RIVERS 2 isn't out on DVD in the US).

FINAL ANALYSIS: The transfer of LEON is not bad, but I wish there were more extras on the second disc. If you don't own the movie yet and thinking of buying it, you should buy this latest DVD release of LEON.

this DVD Review is (c)1-5-2005 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia