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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Leon The Professional / Subway
Leon The Professional / Subway
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // April 29, 2003
List Price: $44.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ron J. Epstein | posted April 29, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The grades on the right are a combined score of the movies included in this Luc Besson 2-pack. Because each movie is different, I will include their individual ratings within the body of each DVD reviewed. Thank you for your understanding even if you have no idea what in the hell I'm talking about.

LÉON: The Professional

The Feature:
If someone were to ask me what my top 10 favorite movies of all time were, I would have to respond by saying, "I don't know, but 'LÉON: The Professional' is definitely high on that list." Actually, that was an incredibly corny way to tell you that I really love Luc Besson's "LÉON", but hey, that's why I'm the reviewer and you're not. Ah, you've got to love life sometimes…

Now, before I get into the review of "LÉON: The Professional", let me please make note that this is the Uncut International Version that restores 24 minutes of additional footage that radically helps to pad out the relationship between Léon (Jean Reno) and Mathilda (Natalie Portman). With that out of the way, I am honored to be able to review "LÉON" for DVDTalk.

Léon is a professional "cleaner" (slang for hitman). Being an immigrant from Italy who hasn't adopted to American culture, Léon lives alone, save for a potted plant he meticulously takes care for. Despite being a so-called "cold blooded killer", Léon is an extremely sympathetic figure, lacking anyone in his life he can love, or even call his friend. Mathilda is a 12-year-old girl who lives in the same apartment building as Léon. Her abusive father runs drugs for a crooked DEA boos, Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Despite living a few doors down from each other, Mathilda and Léon rarely ever exchange a meaningful word … even when she is covered in bruises smoking a cigarette in the stairwell.

Some have said that "LÉON: The Professional" marks the pinnacle of Luc Besson's body of work. For those out there that feel that way, I whole-heartedly agree with you, but am willing to take it a step further. I, for one, feel that "LÉON" marks the pinnacle of Gary Oldman's mesmerizing career. As the viscously tired, pill-popping Norman Stansfield, Oldman plays one of the most memorable characters I have yet to see. Along with his "zest" for eliminating anyone who crosses him, his violent obsession with classical music is among one of the cooler traits a villain has ever possessed, as. Trust me, Gary Oldman is gold here. The same also goes for Natalie Portman, who at only 12-years-old, possesses the talent that most adult actors could ever dream of having.

While out getting groceries for her family, the DEA, lead by Stansfield breaks into Mathilda's residence, and murders her family… including her 4-year-old brother. Knowing something is terribly wrong as she walks towards her apartment, she walks past it, and knocks on Léon's door. After thinking about it for a few minutes, Léon opens his door and takes her in (this is one of the strongest scenes in the movie). In the days and weeks that follow, Mathilda and Léon develop an unusual bond, all centered around Léon teaching Mathilda how to "clean" so she can get revenge on the men who murdered her brother.

I refuse to give away any more of the movie. See "LÉON: The Professional" immediately if you've never seen it. See "LÉON: The Professional" again if you've only seen the initial DVD release that lacks the additional 24 minutes. If you don't like it, feel free to e-mail me and make fun of me.

MOVIE RATING – 4.5 STARS (of 5)

Video:
Columbia Tri-Star presents "LÉON: The Professional" in Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. The color palette utilized feels a bit washed out at times, but in actuality, it adds an element of grittiness to the film, creating an atmosphere that accurately represents Little Italy. The print shows very few instances of dirt, and there is essentially no pixelation or artifacting present. Although not reference quality, this is one of the better transfers I've seen from Columbia Tri-Star.

VIDEO RATING – 3.5 STARS (of 5)

Audio:
The audio is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0. The 5.1 sounds really good, as it takes nearly full advantage of my system. The haunting score adds a feeling of tension that will get your heart pumping. Gunshots and explosions also sound amazing. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and there no audio dropouts whatsoever (please note, the original release of "LÉON: The Professional" had a defective 5.1 track, but Columbia Tri-Star has since fixed the problem. Just make sure the back of the box says "Newly Created English 5.1 (Dolby Digital).

AUDIO RATING – 4 STARS (of 5)

Menus:
Static DVD menu offers the following choices: "Play Movie", "Audio Set-Up", "Subtitles", "Scene Selections" and "Special Features."

Extras:
I was really hoping for more extras, especially in the form of at least one commentary. What Columbia Tri-Star gives us instead is are a couple of trailers and promotional materials. "International Ad Campaigns" is a collection of movie posters from all around the globe that were used to promote "LÉON: The Professional."

Next up is the ability to activate the "Isolated Movie Score" while watching the movie. Also, there are "Talent Files" present for Luc Besson, Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, and Gary Oldman.

And last, but certainly not least, are the "Theatrical Trailers" for "LÉON: The Professional", "The Big Blue", and "The Story of Joan of Arc"… Three movies made by Luc Besson. I'm surprised one for "The Fifth Element" wasn't also included.

EXTRAS RATING – 2 STARS (of 5)

Final Thoughts:
Kudos to Columbia Tri-Star for releasing the restored version of "LÉON: The Professional" on DVD. Despite the lack of any significant special features, the good audio and video transfers more than make up for it. Honestly, had this DVD had a commentary or a few featurettes, you'd be looking at DVDTalk's newest addition to the Collector's Series line. As a result, I am more than comfortable giving this DVD a "Highly Recommended."

REPLAY RATING – 4 STARS (of 5)
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Subway

The Feature:
I can safely say that "Subway" is one of the strangest movies I have ever seen in my life. There was a time when "The Professional" was the only Luc Besson movie I had ever seen. For a while, I had considered Besson to be one of the more serious directors… and then I saw "The Fifth Element." And now after seeing "Subway", I don't know what to think of Luc Besson. But like I've said countless times, "Thinking is overrated." So with that in mind, here is the review for "Subway."

Fred (Christopher Lambert) is a bleach-blonde, spiked haired thief. As somewhat of a master thief, Fred falls in love with the wife of a millionaire he had just robbed. He sets up a secret rendez-vous with her, so she could have her papers and pictures back, and so he could just see her again. Meanwhile, Helena's (Isabelle Adjani) husband has his men combing the subways for Fred and the things he stole.

Fred has taken refuge in the Paris subway system, and has met up with a band (literally) of misfits, one of which is a drummer played by Jean Reno, a man who is fixture in most of Luc Besson's films. Where "Subway" ultimately succeeds is in drawing a line between the rich people like Helena's husband who live above ground, and the poor misfits who live just below it.

Is "Subway" a good movie? Honestly, I don't know. Overall, it's a strange movie experience, and has a completely unique feel (for some reason I though of "A Clockwork Orange" while watching this, but they are so radically different on every level). Regardless, this may be worth checking out for Luc Besson fans, but I doubt the general movie going public would have an interest in "Subway." MOVIE RATING – 3 STARS (of 5)

Video:
Columbia Tri-Star presents "Subway" in Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. For a foreign film made in 1985, the transfer is pretty good. Sure, the color palette is far from vivid, and a little dark at times; but it seems to add an element to the movie rather than taking away from it. The print is free from specs of dirt, and pixelation and artifacting are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, the screen becomes grainy in darker scenes.

VIDEO RATING – 2.5 STARS (of 5)

Audio:
The audio is presented here in French 2.0 and a dubbed 2.0 English track. The French track sounds better than its dubbed counterpart, if only for the reason that the emotion behind the dialogue is better captured in its original language. Overall, the audio is decent, although there were a few times I wished the movie had utilized a 5.1 mix (the subway scenes could sound a lot better). Dialogue is crisp and clean, and there are no audio dropouts to report.

AUDIO RATING – 3 STARS (of 5)

Menus:
Static DVD menu offers the following choices: "Play Movie", "Audio Set-Up", "Subtitles", "Scene Selections" and "Special Features."

Extras:
Just "Filmographies" and "Bonus Trailers." The trailers are for "The Professional", "The Big Blue", and "The Story of Joan of Arc."

EXTRAS RATING – .5 STARS (of 5)

Final Thoughts:
"Subway" is definitely not for everybody. For those of you who hate reading subtitles, then you should look elsewhere (although a English dubbed track has been included). The movie is so strange, that I don't see it appealing to most movie fans. Therefore, if you love Luc Besson, it may be worth checking out. "Rent It."

REPLAY RATING – 2 STARS (of 5)

Reviewers Note: "LÉON: The Professional" is Unrated, while "Subway" is Rated R. If purchased seperately, the MSRP of the movies in this 2-pack would be approximately $60. Columbia Tri-Star has made this 2-pack more affordable by affixing a $44.95 price tag on it. Therefore, I'm recommending this 2-pack just for "LÉON: The Professional."

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