The Professional — known as Léon in France and many other countries — is a 1994 film directed by Luc Besson which stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and Natalie Portman in her first major role.Leone "Léon" Montana (Reno) is a quiet, skilled assassin whose next-door neighbors were just gunned down by Dirty Cops; the only survivor of the massacre is 12-year-old Mathilda Lando (Portman), who begs Léon to save her from the corrupt cops who murdered her family. Léon reluctantly takes Mathilda under his wing and, at her insistence, teaches her in the ways of his trade. Mathilda is intent on avenging her family by going after Stansfield, the man responsible for their murder — and Léon is intent on keeping Mathilda safe at all costs.This film is not to be confused with The Professionals (a British TV series), The Professionals (an American Western film) or Le Professionnel (another French film with Jean-Paul Belmondo as its star).
The Professional provides examples of the following tropes:
Abusive Parents: Mathilda's parents fall under this trope, which is likely why she doesn't care when she finds out they're dead.
Affably Evil: Tony comes across as a nice guy and even throws children's birthday parties in his lair — but he also orders several dozen people murdered over the short period of time in which the film takes place. Given the sort of lowlifes that would require Léon's cleaning services in the first place, it's likely a case of Grey and Gray Morality.
Air Vent Passageway: This trope is subverted: Léon shoots and hacks out the hotel's ventilator fan so Mathilda can slide down to ground level, but there's not enough room for him.
Stansfield: Bring me everyone. Benny: What do you mean "everyone"? Stansfield:EVE-RY-ONE!!!
Artistic License - Geography: At the end of the film, Mathilda is at the Spenser School, which (according to the headmistress's telephone conversation) is supposed to be in Wildwood, New Jersey. In the final moments before the credits, the school is shown to overlook the Hudson River and Manhattan — but Wildwood is an oceanfront community near the tip of Cape May, over 150 miles away from New York City. (These scenes were filmed at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.)
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Stansfield is pretty careless about where he points his gun, especially for a cop. It's unclear how much of this is artistic license and how much is Stansfield simply being an unhinged psychopath.
Asshole Victim: Mathilda's parents and older sister fall under this trope.
Ax Crazy: While ostensibly the leader of the corrupt cops, Stansfield is so psychotic, his second-in-command has to take charge when he becomes too wrapped up in slaughter.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stansfield is rather eccentric, to say the least: he discusses classical music during hits, is careless about where he points his gun, and frequently switches from absolute calm to screaming rage and back.
Camping a Crapper: Mathilda tries to ambush Stansfield in the restroom, but Stansfield is hiding behind the door instead of sitting in one of the booths.
Cassandra Truth: This trope is inverted. The headmistress of the orphanage doesn't believe Mathilda's story about her parents being killed in a car crash, but does believe the story about living with a hitman and being chased by corrupt DEA agents.
Chekhov's Gun: The "Ring Trick" sets up the very end of the film. The American theatrical cut doesn't feature the set-up, but it's not necessary.
Chekhov's Skill: Léon's seen doing crunches/sit-ups in early scenes of the film, and he tries to teach Mathilda how to do them while training her. These exercises allow him to hang from the ceiling unseen and ambush Stansfeld's men during the climatic showdown.
Celibate Hero: Léon hasn't had a girlfriend since his first love was murdered in the old country.
Coming of Age Story: In the beginning of the film, Mathilda is a bratty little girl who fights with her family and watches cartoons all day. Then she decides to dedicate her life to murder and revenge. By the end of the film, she's matured and vowed to "grow roots." The European cut of the film makes more of an issue of her budding sexuality than the American cut, though it also has Mathilda participating in Leon's assassinations, making her ultimate maturity more questionable.
Cynicism Catalyst: Mathilda doesn't give a damn about the rest of her family — but the bastards who killed her little brother must die.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Stansfield knows the confrontation with Léon is going to be a difficult one; he tells the assault team to be careful while staying out of the shooting. Once the team is beaten — as he expects — he sends in backup in full force and is still prepared to counter the quiet exit Léon attempts.
Dirty Cop: Stansfield and his crew work for the DEA.
Distracted by the Sexy: A uniformed policeman misses Mathilda entering a crime scene because he's flirting with a woman from the building.
Even Evil Has Standards: One of Stanfield's men reacts with horror when Mathilda's brother ends up getting accidentally killed by Blood; he's heard shouting angrilly at Blood later in the scene. Killing the rest of the family apparently fell within his standards.
Foot Popping: This trope is spoofed. When Léon rescues Mathilda from the police station, she throws herself into his arms, and the camera cuts to a shot of their feet — Mathilda's are hanging a foot above the ground.
Friend or Foe: Stansfield's gang nearly shoot one another on several occasions during the massacre, and at least one SWAT trooper is killed this way.
Hitman with a Heart: Leon has an aura of childish wholesomeness to him. He lives a simple life, takes care of a pet plant, only drinks milk, and watches films with childish wonder. When called upon to do an act of good, he ultimately rises to it.
Large Ham: This is one of Gary Oldman's hammiest performances (and it stands in sharp contrast with Jean Reno's performance).
Laser Sight: Visible laser sights hunt for Léon and Mathilda in their apartment; they become visible due to the smoke and dust which has accumulated in the room.
Light is Good: A terrified Mathilda is knocking on Léon's door, watched by a suspicious member of Stansfield's gang. Nothing happens, though we know Léon is on the other side of the door, debating whether to involve himself in the matter. As Stansfield's goon becomes more suspicious, light shines on Mathilda's face from the opening door and we see her look of relief.
Subverted when a flash of light is used to indicate Stansfield shooting Léon in the back.
Lolicon: This is an inverted trope. The twelve-year old Mathilda has a girlhood crush on the much older Léon, who repeatedly tells her it won't happen. A deleted scene shows Léon turning down Mathilda's offer of taking her virginity, though she insists they share the bed from then on (instead of Léon sleeping in the chair). Luc Besson cut the scene after preview audiences laughed nervously at it (thus killing the mood), but in the International Cut, the scene was restored.
Mathilda's love for Leon is possibly a misinterpreted love for him as the father she never had. Her advances could simply be her applying her limited knowledge of love, which, for her, is pretty much her parents' groping and whatever she sees on TV.
More Dakka: After Léon wipes out their entry team, the SWAT team brings up a tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine gun — then shoves a rifle grenade into the muzzle and blasts it through the door into Léon's apartment.
Noodle Incident: Léon's overseas affair somehow figures into his current role. This is explained in the International Cut as his girlfriend's death. Due to Léon's family being less respectable than hers, her father killed her when she ignored his request to end the affair. Léon killed the father in revenge, then fled to America to join his father, who was already working for Tony.
The Reveal: Stansfield and his men appear to be just another drug gang; when they hear police sirens approaching after the massacre, Stansfield's Number Two calmly says they've got to go, but Stansfield tells one of his mooks to stay behind.
Willi: What do you want me to tell them? Stansfield: Tell them... we were doing our jobs.
Russian Roulette: Mathilda does this to show she's ready to become a killer. Léon knocks her hand away at the last second, which is just as well because the revolver goes off.
Self Stitching: Léon fixes himself up in the shower after suffering an off-camera injury during a hit.
Senseless Violins: Léon is shown carrying an instrument case when moving house, though he never removes a weapon from it.
Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Mathilda has her first crush on Leon. In the European version, she outright propositions him for sex.
Staged Shooting: A paintball round is used against a jogger. In the international version, it seems the same thing is happening again when Mathilda shoots a mark and leaves only a red splatter, but Léon casually kills the mark after pointing out to Mathilda what she did wrong.
Teach Me How To Fight: Mathilda trades reading lessons for training in the assassin's arts. The two different versions of the film differ on how much training she actually receives.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Stansfield sends two hundred SWAT officers with an RPG — while regular cops establish a perimeter — after one man and and a twelve-year-old girl in a cramped apartment building.
Stansfield: I said take the guy out, not the whole fucking building!
Training Montage: Mathilda learns gun handling, milk drinking, and chin-ups. She is not happy about the last two.