* * * B
If you haven’t seen this Luc Besson film, I recommend it. It’s quirky, funny, violent, and disturbing. Leon (Jean Reno), an illiterate hit man from the old country, takes in Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a preadolescent girl who is orphaned when a crooked DEA agent (Gary Oldman) kills her family, including her innocent four year old brother. Mathilda then convinces Leon to train her to be a “cleaner” too, but her motive is revenge.
Reno is excellent as the naive, simplistic, yet ruthless Leon. Portman, in her debut role, pulls off her character solidly, and the two have great chemistry, by turns laugh out loud funny then sad. Oldman leads a crew of otherwise mediocre villains, but his character, Stansfield, is a truly terrifying example of how evil people are attracted to the power of the state. He is at times almost comical, but is gradually revealed as a deeply disturbed psychopath. Danny Aiello rounds out the cast as Leon’s patron, Tony.