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The Professional

Cast: Jean Reno, Danny Aiello, Natalie Portman, Michael Badalucco, Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Regen, Carl J. Matusovich, Gary Oldman

Rating: R for scenes of strong graphic violence and language

Runtime: 112 minutes (original version)

Leon (Reno) is a quiet man. He lives alone in a rundown apartment where he takes care of his plant, drinks milk, sleeps in his chair and is used to a certain daily routine. Leon also happens to be a “cleaner” a.k.a. professional hitman/assassin for Tony (Aiello).

Twelve-year-old Mathilda (Portman) lives down the hall from Leon with her father (Badalucco), step-mother (Greene), step-sister (Regen) and younger brother (Matusovich). Mathilda’s home life is turbulent at best. Suffering at the hands of her abusive parents and step-sister, Mathilda finds solace in her younger brother as well as cartoons and sitting in the hallway of the apartment building where she’s taken a keen interest in her brooding neighbor. She’s also been known to smoke a few cigarettes!

We soon learn that Mathilda’s father is mixed up in some shady dealings with Stansfield (Oldman), a corrupt DEA agent, and some of the men that work with him. When there is a problem with the quality of drugs that Mathilda’s father has been holding for them, Stansfield gives him a day to get things sorted out. But when the deadline approaches, Stansfield comes looking for Mathilda’s father at the family’s apartment. During the chaos, the entire family is murdered by Stansfield and his men. All, that is, except Mathilda, who happens to be at the grocery store at the time. The young girl isn’t completely out of danger. As she approaches the family’s apartment, Mathilda notices the men are still there and promptly goes to Leon’s apartment. Leon, who has noticed what’s happened from the “peep hole” in his apartment door, hesitates at first but then reluctantly opens the door to let the girl in.

Although they feel awkward about the situation at first, Leon and Mathilda eventually develop a strong affection and bond with each other. After finding out what Leon’s true profession is, Mathilda is adamant to also become a “cleaner” in order to get revenge for her family’s murder (actually, she only wants revenge for her brother’s murder, the others she couldn’t care less about). In exchange for learning the tricks of the trade, Mathilda does Leon’s laundry, teaches him to read, has to drink milk and eventually agrees to stop smoking and cursing. Will Mathilda and Leon get vengeance for the murders? What will happen when Stansfield becomes aware that someone is after him? You’ll have to watch “The Professional” to find out!

“The Professional” is an intense, action-packed film with a lot of heart as well as some comedic moments that keeps you riveted to the screen from start to finish. The idea of a professional hitman taking in a young girl, who acts a lot older due to the world she’s been living in, and both are forever changed because of it, was interesting. The acting was also top notch and you can completely believe the characters each actor/actress depicted.

There were several action/intense moments that I liked about the film. One would have to be the scene with Stansfield and his men at the family’s apartment and the nail biting scene of Mathilda coming home and knowing immediately that something’s wrong. Another favorite would have to be Mathilda, deciding to take out Stansfield on her own, gets access to the building where the DEA team is located. She tries to trail him only to be confronted by a suspicious Stansfield in the restroom. With Mathilda caught, it’s up to Leon to rescue her. There is also the intense, climactic battle between Leon and the officers at the end.

There isn’t too much about this movie that could have been improved upon. Perhaps there could have been a little more background info on the main characters, but I think we get to know just enough about them to make the movie flow smoothly.

My Rating: 4 /12 out of 5

Be sure to read A Profile of Natalie Portman.

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