Whenever I kept thinking about The Professional, I would always think to myself how incredible Jean Reno and Natalie Portman were. I would then quickly remember that Gary Oldman was in this movie and be impressed even further. This movie had the luxury of a genius plot executed perfectly by superior actors. And it shows well because of it.
For most of the movie, I found myself hoping beyond hope that Mathilda and Leon got their peaceful ending together. Easy, now. Let me explain. I was on their side. I saw them as the good guys, mostly because Reno makes Leon incredibly sympathetic and I adore children. Not in a weird way. They are just lovely little creatures. But then two things occurred that began to change my mind. First, I realized that neither Leon nor Mathilda were actually the good guys, so to speak. Leon was a professional hitman. And a really good one at that. While his story with Mathilda does exhibit several redeeming qualities, he still killed people for a living. Arguably, those people deserved death, but it was not his place to give it. Mathilda is not quite as drastic, but it is difficult to call her good. She is awful to her siblings, although they are awful people. She is negligent of her responsibilities, including skipping school. Her other minor infractions can certainly be explained away. But if nothing else, her intent on revenge and killing (while entirely understandable) makes her a little less of a typical good guy. I realize she is a child, which excuses her to an extent. But we must remember that she is precocious child, so she understands much more than most children her age. Second, the movie expertly plays with a line that simply should not be crossed. Leon is an adult male, and Mathilda is a 12-year-old child. No romantic relationship should ever occur. But it seems that their relationship slowly and accidentally moves towards this. I initially wanted Leon and Mathilda to survive and thrive together because their relationship was so fun and pure. Mathilda lost everything; Leon gave her something back. Leon didn’t have anything to live for; Mathilda gave him a reason to exist. I wanted things to stay this way, but I began to fear that they would not. The movie introduced this concept slowly and subtly, and I found myself very nervous as I was watching. I liked Leon and Mathilda and the two of them together. If that line were crossed, I would have immediately and spitefully disliked Leon. While it was never expressly displayed in the movie (not the American theatrical release, at least), there are several scenes you can point to that indicate that their relationship did turn romantic.
On the other side of the good guys not entirely being good guys, the bad guys were more complex than the typical bad guy (The Muppets reference here, if you will). They were from the DEA. The murderous scoundrels that dealt drugs worked for the DEA. While it can be said that it is not original to reverse these roles, the way The Professional executed this switch certainly felt original. The characters we care about at first are not overwhelmingly good. What’s more is that there is no explanation about why Leon is a hitman. There is no mention of a severe tragedy or wrongdoing against him. All we know is that he just kills people to make money. As stated before, making cops bad is not new (16 Blocks, Training Day, etc.), but we don’t even know they are cops until at least halfway through the film. Even if you were able to guess that they were before it was explicitly stated, you likely would not know until close to halfway in.
It is just fun to have every character in this film be so dynamic. It makes you think about everything you see and feel. There is no arbitrarily siding with some and against others. This is compounded by exceptional performances across the board, making these characters even more fun to watch. Once you throw in the brilliant plot line and morally complex subject material, you have a special movie.
But I do have just one minor complaint. There were some plot devices used to further the story that seemingly can’t be explained. For example, the game that Leon and Mathilda played. Why does she have makeup and a Marilyn Monroe dress? The only explanation I have is wildly inappropriate, and we were pretty far from that at this point in the movie. Also, how did the DEA know where to find Mathilda and Leon? Maybe Tony told them. But how would Tony even know? They had moved twice since the beginning of the film. But these are fairly minor flaws that hardly detract from an overwhelmingly impressive movie.
My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. Were you as conflicted as I with the dynamic characters? How did you feel about the movie pushing moral boundaries? Did you notice any unexplained aspects of the plot or did I miss something? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!