Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Jean Reno and Natalie Portman
It's only Day Fourteen of this blog, but it's hitting me. I'm seeing way too many good movies to properly appreciate them. I used to have a personal top ten movies list. I was satisfied with it, and only a few movies jostled position or challenged to enter the list. I watched a new movie every few weeks, and a few of them would demand re-viewings. Most of those re-viewings showed me that the movie wasn't quite top ten material because of how much I loved my top ten.
That's all out the window now.
Now, I watch a movie just about every day that I think could be top ten material. Then, I don't rewatch it, because I have to watch another movie the next day. Then, that movie becomes something I ponder as possible top ten material. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I only bring this up because I know for a fact that I'm being unfair to The Professional by not thinking about it in terms of where it might belong in my all-time favorites canon. It is two hours of awesomeness with four – count 'em, four – absolutely phenomenal performances, a plot that wasn't worn out yet in 1994, and some of the best cinematography I've ever seen, and certainly the best of any action movie I've seen. (Those close-ups! My God!)
I say it's unfair to this movie because I truly believe that if I had time to sit down and watch it again next week, and didn't have to watch all kinds of other movies in the time between, it could legitimately make a run at my top five. The problem is that I'll never know – or won't know for another 230+ days, anyway. I should probably be making a list of movies to reevaluate when I finish the blog. The Professional would probably top such a list.
In any case, Luc Besson's action thriller is so much more than its genre lets on, and we get the unique treat of seeing the birth of one of the greatest actresses of our time in Natalie Portman's performance as twelve-year old Mathilda, a girl who moves in with a hit man after her whole family was gunned down by corrupt DEA officials. Unlike Chloe Moretz's Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, she appears to have been profoundly affected by the death of her family and plays the character as a twelve-year old girl would actually act in her situation, the fucked-up things she's seen and wants to do notwithstanding. On the many occasions where Mathilda cries, the tears look very genuine, and Luc Besson's camera work lets us see them from mere centimeters away. In fact, despite the fact that she has since grown up and become an Oscar nominee, this may be Natalie Portman's best performance. There's a whole 'nother blog post waiting to be written about the Mathilda character's premature sexualization and push into adulthood, but I'll leave that one for the true film auteurs.
But Portman's not alone. Jean Reno is sympathetic as Leon, Gary Oldman is vicious as Sam, and Danny Aiello is as Italian as humanly possible as Old Tony. They all add to the fabric of this French-made, English language masterpiece. I can't wait to watch it again sometime in 2011. Hopefully I'll love it as much as I did tonight.
The Good: Portman's performance, Besson's cinematography, and the beautiful dichotomy of "Fuck yeah!" moments and touching moments.
The Bad: If something about this movie was bad, I guess I missed it.
The Skinny: #35? Absolutely fair.