Movie Article

Leon

The Professional (1994)

Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, ...
Image credit: The Professional: Everett Collection

Jean Reno made our list of favorite movie hitmen

PLAYED BY Jean Reno

THE LOWDOWN Loner Leon is a skillful ''cleaner'' (not unlike the ''cleaner'' Reno played in director Luc Besson's ''La Femme Nikita,'' see next page), but his solitude comes to an end when he takes in a neighbor, orphaned waif Mathilda (Natalie Portman, right), whose family has been massacred by corrupt cops led by Agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Even as he reluctantly trains her to ''clean,'' he arms himself for the inevitable return of sadistic Stansfield and his squad of thugs.

WEAPONS OF CHOICE Sniper rifle, pistol with silencer, hand grenades

REDEEMING VIRTUE Leon does have one rule about his targets: ''No women, no kids.'' And he proves an unexpectedly decent role model and father figure to Mathilda.

WHY HE MADE OUR LIST A killer taking a little girl under his wing? Could have been cornball or exploitative, but it's neither, since the hard-boiled Reno, the precocious Portman (in her first film), and glossy-pulp master Besson all play it straight.

EW MOVIE GRADE A-

Originally posted Aug 05, 2004