The Professional (Leon)
By Tom Cassidy,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Action thriller has violence against kids, strong language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Mixed messages. Characters convey friendship, teamwork, and courage and live by a moral code. But they kill and use violence, often for money. Law enforcement characters are portrayed as crooked and more morally bankrupt than the film's criminals.
Positive Role Models
Hitman Leon kills for money but has a "no women, no kids" rule for his targets. He is kind to Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl in his apartment block, ends up taking her in as a father figure when her family is killed. Mathilda smokes and swears, hardened by a tough home life -- her father is a drug dealer who hits his daughter. Leon trains her as an assassin to take revenge on her family's killers. Stansfield, a corrupt drug enforcement agent, is a sadistic killer who uses and sells drugs.
Violence & Scariness
Graphic violence throughout, including murder, shootings, and explosions caused by grenades and rockets. A knife is held to someone's throat; people have guns pointed at them or held to them. A character badly wounded in a shoot-out launches grenades strapped to their body, causing a massive explosion that kills both them and another. Violence toward kids. A four-year-old and a teen are killed by corrupt law enforcement agents. A kid is hit by their abusive parent -- seen with a black eye and a bloody nose. While standing in the shower, a character stitches up a bloody wound on their chest. A bloody corpse hangs in an elevator. Characters are thrown over stairwell railings, strangled.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A character grabs his partner's breasts. In a brief scene, they are later disturbed having sex when one of their young children walks in on them. A 12-year-old implies to a stranger that her adult guardian is her "lover." She tries to kiss the guardian, asks to lose her virginity to him; he refuses. Character is seen naked from the waist up in the shower.
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Frequent language includes "fat bastard," "f--king," "ass," "s--t," "bitch," "f--k," "goddamn," and "a--hole." One use of the racial slur "chinks," and the Jamaican expletive "bumboclaat."
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Products & Purchases
Madonna poster in an apartment; a character sings one of her songs. Cats stage show logo visible on theater billboard.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mobster characters and main villain involved in cocaine dealing. Bags of cocaine are shown; dealers cutting it rub it into their gums. A kid regularly smokes cigarettes. A character takes an amphetamine-style pill, which affects their behavior. A kid and their adult guardian drink Champagne and the child gets drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Professional -- also known by the name Leon and Leon: The Professional -- is a stylish action thriller with plenty of violence, bloody deaths, and strong language. Lead characters Leon (Jean Reno) and 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) have a close bond and behave with a moral code of friendship, teamwork, and respect -- while he also kills for money and she follows a path of revenge. This murky morality sits well in the framework of the movie, which is a more thrill-ride action adventure than a gritty, realistic drama. In contrast to the two "heroes," the villains are suitably loathsome. The violence is frequent and bloody, often involving guns, grenades, and rockets. There are multiple kills, including the murder of two kids: A teenage girl is shot on-screen, and a four-year-old boy is shown in peril but his death isn't shown. Strong language is used throughout, often by Mathilda. She frequently smokes, and gets drunk while drinking with Leon. She also tries to kiss Leon and asks him to take her virginity, but he refuses. Drugs feature throughout as the villains are corrupt cocaine-dealing enforcement agents. The drug is seen in bags and being prepared, and in one scene characters rub it into their gums. The main villain, Stanfield (Gary Oldman), also takes amphetamine-style pills that intensify his unpredictable behavior.
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The Professional (Leon)
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What's the Story?
In THE PROFESSIONAL, when 12-year-old Mathilda's (Natalie Portman) family is killed by corrupt drug enforcement agents, she is taken in by Leon (Jean Reno), an assassin who teaches her his trade.
Is It Any Good?
Luc Besson's super-stylish action movie is a cool and bloody update of the bad man with a heart of gold story. Sad-eyed Reno is Leon, the milk guzzling lone gunman and THE PROFESSIONAL, who takes Portman's 12-year-old Mathilda under his wing when her family is killed. What follows is an Amelie-style magical realist action picture, albeit with lashings of stylized violence in a movie land version of New York.
Besson draws from the carefree French New Wave and the no-nonsense approach of '80s and '90s American B movies for a tight and direct ride. It's smart, confident, and convincing filmmaking. The same praise can be said of the cast. As Mathilda, Portman's performance -- her debut role -- defies her young years as a character for which there was no previous template. Young killers-in-training are rarely the types of characters to root for. But set against the deliciously detestable corrupt drug enforcement agent, Stanfield (Gary Oldman), you can't help but be on the side of Leon and his young apprentice, who as a double act form one of cinema's most unforgettable and unique anti-hero duos.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Professional. Was it shocking, or thrilling? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Discuss the strong language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
Talk about how the movie depicts smoking and drug use. Are they glamorized? Do the characters need to do these things to look cool? What are the consequences?
Did you find yourself rooting for Leon and Mathilda even though Leon is a hitman? If so, why do you think this was? Discuss what it means to be an anti-hero.
- In theaters: November 18, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: February 24, 1998
- Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman
- Director: Luc Besson
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: scenes of strong graphic violence, and for language.
- Last updated: June 1, 2023
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