Friday, September 10, 2010

The Professional. B

At first I was going to say that The Professional contains a singularly great performance, which would be Jean Reno as the hitman, Leon. But then I realized that it has three great, contrasting performances. There's Reno of course, then Natalie Portman as the little girl, and finally, the role that probably divides people the most, Gary Oldman as the corrupt cop. Oldman, always great at playing cunning, unhinged antagonists, goes completely overboard here. The mistake one makes in saying the performance is bad because it's over-the-top is that they fail to see it's supposed to be that way. Pretty much every line Oldman delivers is exaggerated, but why shouldn't it be? He's a devil of a detective who compares breaking into an apartment and killing a family to classical music. And then he proceeds to do just that. If someone could make that comparison, the further they are from standard behavior the better. And it's not like you have to deal with Oldman for the entire movie. He dominates the screen at the beginning, then disappears for a lot of the story until he makes an almost obligatory appearance at the end. During the middle, when we pretty much forget all about Oldman's existence, a touching little story is developed between the hitman Leon, and the lone survivor of apartment ambush. Leon calls himself a cleaner and the survivor, a twelve year old girl named Matilda, requests that he teach her his trade. Actually, it's more like a demand, but she's such likable and persuasive person that Leon hardly has a choice. The movie isn't so much about Matilda learning this trade, or even her relationship with Leon, but rather it's about Leon's own standards and decisions. He has a wide array of principles, some of which he compromises and others which remain intact. It's nice to see a hitman's life from within. These people live complicated lives. Even though they kill for a living, they're not machines like movies so often depict them to be. Reno is perfectly cast as the thoughtful hero. Portman and Oldman are great as well, but they're simply here to allow us to see more into the complexities of Leon's mind.

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