A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
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?
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: May 19, 2021
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