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The Professional

Year: 1994
Production Co: Gaumont
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello
Otherwise known as Leon, this film has righty gone down in history as one of the most auspicious arrivals in the film world, of the then-13 Natalie Portman.

It wasn't the first time a tough guy hero has had to hook up with a precocious kid - look at the desperate entries in the CVs of fading action stars like The Game Plan and The Pacifier.

But in the hands of Luc Besson, it becomes a tragicomic masterpiece. The hackneyed premise that both seemingly incompatible people need each other for their own redemption has been plumbed mercilessly by the Disney Obtuse school of filmmaking as well, but Reno is goofy as well as hard, with a childlike simplicity that perfectly mirrors Mathilde's (Portman). Portman is wily as well as just cute, sharp rather than cloying, and you'll fall in love with them both.

When Mathilde's no-good family are slain by crooked cop Stansfield (Oldman) while she's out shopping, she goes desperately to Leon's apartment for help. Unaware of what he does for a living - a professional killer - she begs him to take care of her, promising to do her share, and so while they move from place to place and Leon teaches Mathilde everything he knows about killing and the business, she teaches him there's more to life than death.

On paper it sounds very clichéd, and maybe it's Oldman's menace that sells it, maybe it's Reno penduluming between being a big kid himself and a ruthless murderer, maybe it's Portman's ability to charm the iciest of hearts. But together, they create a movie that's much more than the sum of its parts.

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