Savant New York hitman Léon (Jean Reno) runs his professional and personal life with little – if any – emotion. He shuffles desperately through crowds in an attempt to remain unnoticed, and always sleeps in a seated position with a gun at his side.
The character initially appears ‘slow’, until we see him on a job – where he works with cunning and ruthless efficiency.
Léon’s life changes when he decides to help Mathilda (Natalie Portman in her film debut), the 12-year old girl who lives in the apartment next door to his.
While she’s out picking up groceries, Mathilda’s family is murdered by corrupt DEA agents led by Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman at the peak of his ’90s baddie phase) as retribution for a deal gone bad with her drug-dealing father.
When Mathilda returns, a lookout guards the door to her family’s apartment, but she still manages to glimpse the dead bodies inside.
Coolly pretending to be a neighbour she walks past the carnage and proceeds to knock on Léon’s door. She has only met Léon once or twice but – after building incredible suspense – he decides to let her in.
The rest of the film explores why he made that decision . . .
Lucius Wyatt Cherokee