Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Professional (1994)

I know that sometimes we here at Action Direct focus on what some might argue are "bad" action movies. While I tend to disagree, I understand that some of our subject matter feautres not only strong fight scenes and blatant disregard for political correctness, but also a lack of irony with which the protagonists treat the delivery and content of one-liners such as "Strike three, you're out!" and "Let off some steam!" We contend that the latter actually augments badassery in an 80's and 90's action movie.

But never fear. We also appreciate those action movies which do not operate under the premise that the star is impervious to most kinds of bullets. And today, we review one of these.

The Professional (1994) will go down as one of the best assassin movies, if not action movies, in history. I was just having a conversation with someone last night about how formulaic assassin movies are, this after having watched the preview for Hitman (which I heard had decent action). The story usually goes something like this: 

Brick Steele was the best assassin money could buy. But when his own son comes between the crosshairs, Steele has a change of heart. Now the establishment is forced to take out the very man that it trained to be the ultimate assassin....*

And so on. I'm not saying that this is a bad plot. In fact, a number of pretty good action flicks rely on some incarnation of this theme. It worked in Assassins. And to a certain degree, the Bourne movies are just a variation of this plot line. But The Professional has none of this. In fact, it is something entirely different.

The Professional (also known as Leon), directed by frenchie Luc Besson, is the story of Leon (Jean Reno) the cleaner and his companion/apprentice Mathilda (Natalie Portman). Mathilda is orphaned after her screw-up father messes with the wrong guy, a crooked cop with a healthy addiction to crazy pills played by Gary Oldman, and gets himself and the rest of his family killed. This includes Mathilda's mothers, sister, and brother. Now, it doesn't matter so much to Mathil that her parents and sister were shot down in cold blood, but it really pisses her off that her little brother got it as well. Leon takes in Mathilda and decides to train her in the art of cleaning so that she might one day exact revenge on her brother's killers.

During the process of the training, Mathilda takes a liking to Leon. And I don't mean in that father/daughter kind of way. Oh, did I mention that Mathilda is 12 years old? Needless to say, I get a little uncomfortable watching some of the scenes in this movie. Partially because its a little weird, and partially because Natalie Portman as a twelve-year old is still kind of hot.... too far?

In any case, the movie culminates in a solid shoot out scene between most of the New York Police Department and Leon that I'm sure influenced the Wachowski brothers as they put together that epic sequence in The Matrix (you know the one).

The Professional is an action movie. It is a love story. And it is fucking badass. Chalked full of awesome dialogue (i.e. Leon explaining to Mathilda that the knife is the last weapon the cleaner learns to use because it is the most intimate) and just awesome training sequences (my favorite being when Mathilda uses a paintball sniper rifle to shoot a Bill Clinton-esque president figure as he jogs through Central Park), I have to say that this movie is in my top ten all time favorite action movies.  

Check it out.

* Not an actual assassin movie.


Sean Ferrell said...

we're definitely breaking from the trend on this one.
do i see the number of bad eighties and nineties action films that you havent discussed dwindling? will we see an upward arc in the quality of film discussed?

Brandon said...

i agree with sean. this movie is great. but it is not fucking badass. she cries too much. there is no crying in 80's 90's action thrillers. also it made me think that she plays the same face and attitude in closer. kind of messed up that she could be an emotionally pained stripper at age 12 with relationship issues, but that is hollywood.

Casey said...

Bullshit this movie is not fucking badass! This movie is some of the baddest assed shit out there! Besides Brandon, real men cry. I double dog dare you to step to either Leon or Mathilda in this movie!

alla said...

tom berringer in sniper takes out leon in front of mathilda, in order to help her relive the massacre of her family. then teams up with the crazy of antonio banderas in assassins and slowly takes her apart. no fight. none.