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LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
(Superbit)

Having never seen director Luc Bessonís THE PROFESSIONAL or its longer international version entitled LEON, I felt the time was right to check it out now that Columbia TriStar has issued the re-titled uncut version, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL ($26), under their Superbit moniker. After having sat through the film, I can honestly say that I was blown away by this stylized action movie with decidedly European sensibilities. Like most action movies, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL has a plot that pretty much defies belief. However, the film resonates with a certain power, thanks to the superb performances of Jean Reno and a youthful Natalie Portman, who conveys a loss of innocence with an alarming quality. As for Jean Reno, he is a marvelous actor, and is so good in this film, that one has to wonder why he doesnít get more (and better) roles stateside. In LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, Reno is truly outstanding in the title role of an assassin, who rediscovers his humanity in a very surprising way.

After her family is gunned down in the apartment next door, a twelve-year-old Mathilda (Portman) seeks shelter with Leon. Although Leon initially wants nothing to do with the child, he takes pity on Mathilda and allows her into his apartment. Mathilda quickly discovers how the mysterious Leon makes his living, and then makes a startling request- she wants to learn Leonís trade, so she can personally deal with the men that killed her family. As I stated above, the plot of LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL sounds absurd, but one director Luc Besson really makes the characters the focus of the story, instead of the situations. Additionally, Besson stages the filmís violent action sequences so well, that the audience becomes lost in the moment, instead of thinking how unbelievable the ever-escalating situation becomes. The cast of LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL also features a completely over-the-top Gary Oldman, as well as a more reserved Danny Aiello.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made their Superbit DVD edition of LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. This is generally a very good-looking presentation, but it falls short of being outstanding, due to the fact that the film elements are less than pristine. There are a lot of small blemishes throughout the course of the movie, and while they are not terrible, they could have been digitally cleaned up to a greater extent. The image itself proves to be sharp and well defined, not to the extent of a brand new movie, but well enough for a European production from 1994. Color have a fairly natural level of saturation, sometimes a bit heightened, sometimes less, but otherwise good overall. Blacks appear accurate, as do the whites and contrast is fairly smooth. This being the Superbit title, the increased bit rate of the process keeps digital compression artifacts well concealed.

As this is a Superbit release, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL features 5.1 channel soundtracks in both Dolby Digital and DTS. That said; the soundtracks for LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL are mixed in such a way that there is very little (or should I say almost no) information being sent to the rear channels. The forward soundstage does a good job of carrying the track, although ambient sounds and musical fill are missed somewhat during the course of the film. Stereo separation is effectively demonstrated in both sound effects and music, which come across with good fidelity. Gunfire carries the appropriate weight and the bass channel is solid enough for the material. Dialogue is cleanly rendered, with good intelligibility. As for the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS, they arenít particularly perceivable on this DVD. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles have been provided on the DVD. The basic interactive menus offer access to the standard set up and scene selection features. No supplements are provided on this Superbit title, since all of the storage space on the DVD has been allotted to the bit rate for both the video and audio.

As action movies go, I found LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL to be more emotionally satisfying than most. The Superbit release is quite solid, although this wouldnít be the title I would use to show off the benefits of the process.

 

LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (SUPERBIT) 


Leon - The Professional (Uncut International Version) (Superbit Collection) (1994)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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