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Film / The Professional

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"No women, no kids. That's the rules."

The Professional — also known as Leon: The Professional and Léon in France and many other countries — is a 1994 film directed by Luc Besson and produced by Gaumont which stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman (in her first major movie role) and Danny Aiello. It was inspired by Jean Reno's One-Scene Wonder character in Nikita, as a "cleaner" who ties up loose ends in operations-gone-awry, who became so popular that Besson decided to essentially make a whole movie about him, though the two films are otherwise unrelated. It was released by Columbia Pictures in North America, while in France it was released by Disney under Gaumont Buena Vista International.

Leone "Léon" Montana (Reno) is a quiet, skilled assassin whose next-door neighbors were just gunned down by crooked DEA agent Norman "Stan" Stansfield (Oldman) and his crew; 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— 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), Le Professionnel (a 1981 French film), or Golgo 13: The Professional.

Bring me every trope. What do you mean every trope? EVERYTHING!:

  • Actor Allusion: Leon referring to himself as a "cleaner" is a reference to his role in Luc Besson's previous film Nikita, where Jean Reno played a crime scene cleaner/hitman.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: This trope is zig-zagged: 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.
  • All of Them:
    Stansfield: Bring me everyone.
    Benny: What do you mean "everyone"?
    Stansfield: EVE-RY-ONE!!!
  • All There in the Script: According to Besson's first script-draft, Léon's full name is Leone Montana.
  • Analogy Backfire: When Leon tells Mathilda about his first love with an Italian Uptown Girl and how that girl still came to see him, Mathilda concludes that nothing can stop love (read: her love to Leon). Then he reveals that the girl got shot by her furious father.
  • Anchovies Are Abhorrent: At the DEA department, one of the agents warns the other not to take a bite from Mathilda's pizza as it might be poisoned. The other guy retorts that the slice looks fine since there is no anchovies on it.
  • And Starring: The opening's cast roll ends with "and Danny Aiello".
  • Anyone Can Die: Sadistically so. Mathilda's family gets slaughtered, her little brother included. Léon and Stansfield even get killed by the same grenade.
  • 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.)
  • Asshole Victim:
    • All of Leon's victims are made out to be criminals.
    • Mathilda's abusive parents and jerk of an older sister. She's not especially sorry for losing them.
  • Backstory: 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.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Léon, an unstoppable hitman of a main character takes 12-year-old Mathilda under his wing. She begs him to avenge the murder of her family or teach her so that she can do it herself.
  • Badass Creed: "No women, no kids." Also used as a plot significant Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The cops seen in the film are either violent, corrupt psychos, jackbooted thugs or all of the above. Mostly Stansfield and his gang (Malky shows some conscience but is still crooked cop) and they are pretty competent if completely crooked. Other cops are simply following their orders (i.e. they do what you would expect from a cop told to chase a dangerous murderer).
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Stansfield and his crew work for the DEA, but also murder the entire family (save one) of a man holding drugs for them and don't seem unfamiliar with hiring out professional killers from the Mob.
  • Batman Cold Open: The opening scene shows Léon killing a gang of drug dealers in a matter of minutes. The entire scene only exists to show how proficient Léon is, and has nothing to do with the rest of the film.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Matilda develops a crush on Leon because he willingly allowed her to live with him and was more caring to her than her own parents.
  • Bested by the Inexperienced: Formidable badass Leon is killed when Stansfield cowardly shoots him in the back.
  • Big Brother Bully: Big Sister Bully in the case of Mathilda's stepsister, a violent teenager who regularly hits her for the pettiest of reasons such as wanting control of the remote.
  • Big Damn Heroes: After killing Malky, Leon goes to the DEA office where he knocks out the boss, shoots both Willie Blood and Neal and rescues Mathilda.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: New York City in the 1990s is not a happy place. This was before Guiliani's efforts to drive down the high crime rate.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Léon dies, but Mathilda gets her revenge — and "Léon's" roots can grow, now. She seems to have found a person willing to protect her.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The protagonists are a hitman and a young girl interested in killing people, while the antagonist is a psychotic, drug-addled corrupt DEA agent.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Mathilda has one of these on Léon—in the uncut version, she even asks him to be her first lover, but he refuses.
  • Book Ends: The move starts with a tracking shot showing New York's skyline and finished with a similar skyline shot during the "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Discussed and averted. Leon teaches Mathilda not to shoot a target in the head because it's important that the police can correctly identify the body afterwards.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Stansfield borrows Luc Besson's out-of-universe manner of saying "bingo". He also imitates opera singing when he chants "I love Mozart" and does a pretty bad Austrian accent when he's talking about him.
  • 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.
  • Ceiling Cling: Used to great effect by Léon.
  • Censored Child Death: Mathilda's little brother's murder is not clearly shown. The last shot of him is running from a villain's bullets across the corridor. We never get to see the boy's body and his death is only mentioned again when the film changes to another scene.
  • Chalk Outline: Once Mathilda returns to her old apartment, there's one in the ground that marks the spot where her younger brother was killed. She's disturbed and avoids stepping inside it.
  • Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: One of the celebrities Mathilda dresses up as is Charlie Chaplin.
  • 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 climactic showdown.
  • Closet Punishment: Played with. In one scene where Leon and Mathilda kid around in their apartment, he playfully locks her into the closet.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Mr. Ruben, the unhinged apartment dweller spouts a ton of profanity towards Leon and Mathilda while firing his machine gun.
  • 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.
  • Companion Cube: Léon's only friend has been a small houseplant, which he carefully waters with a squirt bottle and sets outside his windowsill each day. He says he likes the plant because it has "no roots," like him.
  • Compartment Shot: We get such a shot to watch Mathilda fill up the fridge with milk.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. Mathilda's little brother breaks cover from his hiding place upon the distraction of his dad killing one of Stansfield's men. Startled, Willi Blood starts spraying through the wall with a Kimmel AP-9 and manages to hit him, while also endangering all of Stansfield's other men. Later, when the police try to storm Leon's and Mathilda's hideout, the bullets go through the wall, which makes the situation rather sticky for those inside.
  • Conducting the Carnage: As Stanfield is picking off Mathilda's family members with his shotgun, he likens the moments to listening and playing Beethoven's classical pieces and waves his hands accordingly.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: In the final act, Léon takes on a heavily-armed SWAT unit by himself — and gets away. Léon is only stopped when Stansfield sneaks up on him from behind.
  • Contrived Coincidence: After being away from her apartment for several days, Mathilda returns to the place at exactly the same time as Stansfield does, allowing her to track him all the way to the DEA department building.
  • Cool Shades: Leon almost always wears his signature tea shades. They're the very first thing you see of his character. Mathilda snags them (and his knit cap) when she goes to commit an assassination of her own, apparently in hopes of channeling some of his badassitude.
  • Cop Killer Manhunt: Leon walks into a DEA office and kills every Dirty Cop present, then later makes mincemeat out of several more cops when they show up at his apartment with a SWAT team. At that point the police are no longer screwing around, sending basically the entire NYPD after him.
    Stansfield: Bring me everyone.
    Benny: What do you mean "everyone"?
    Stansfield: EVE-RY-ONE!!!
  • Corruption of a Minor: Leon befriends Mathilda, who demands that he teach her how to kill. In the American theatrical release, he gives her some lessons, but she never participates in an actual murder. In the overseas version, she helps kill at least a dozen people, making her instant rehabilitation at the end a little dubious.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Leon and Tony use an Italian restaurant to conduct their criminal operations. Also, when Mathilda poses as a delivery girl to infiltrate the DEA building so she can assassinate Norman Stansfield, he quickly catches on and pointedly asks her if she is delivering Italian food.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Mathilda tells Leon that she fell off a bike, more than once. She seems to figure nevertheless that he knows the truth about her abusive father.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Mathilda doesn't give a damn about the rest of her family — but the bastards who killed her little brother must die.
  • Deadly Bath: Mathilda's stepmother met her end in a bathtub via Stansfield's shotgun.
  • Deadly Delivery: Mathilda pretends to be delivering takeaway to get her arsenal of weapons past the metal detector into DEA headquarters. Stansfield isn't fooled however and speculates (ostensibly talking about the takeaway meal) which organized crime group might have sent this child assassin after him. "Chinese? Thai, maybe? Let me guess...Italian food." Mathilda informs him It's Personal.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Leon calls himself a "Cleaner", instead of "Assassin" or "Hitman". So someone might ask him to "clean" someone, rather than "kill" them. That's actually a Shout-Out to Nikita, where Jean Reno played the "cleaner" i.e. a character who specialized in destroying the evidence and disposing of bodies after the hit.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Mathilda, bent on revenge, walks into DEA headquarters as a 12-year-old food delivery person with a bag of guns. She gets past security, at least.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Stansfield when he's killing Mathilda's family while cheerfully humming along to the classical music in his headphones.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A uniformed cop misses Mathilda entering a crime scene because he's flirting with a woman from the building.
  • Double Speak: Léon refers to himself as a "cleaner". Mathilda sees right through his words and asks him to teach her to "clean" also.
  • Double Tap: In the international release, Leon brings Mathilda on a hit where he teaches her to shoot her target twice. Once in the stomach and once higher up in the chest.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Léon wears the uniform of an ESU officer killed during the raid on his apartment in order to escape through the cordon of police.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The entire movie. The very beginning has Leon take out a drug gang and the main antagonists are involved in drug trafficking which leads to them murdering Mathilda's family and working with criminal organizations such as the Mafia and the Triads.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Léon's death scene counts — especially since he takes Stansfield with him.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Landos. And unlike most examples of this trope, it is not Played for Laughs at all.
  • Empty Elevator: "Somebody's coming up. Somebody's serious." (Léon's not in it, but as in Die Hard he has placed a corpse of one of the bad guys in there instead).
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The first scenes show Leon as a badass hitman with almost supernatural skills due to years of training. He spends the rest of his day as mundanely as possible—going to the store, watering his plants and cleaning his guns.
    • Norman Stansfield gets two establishing moments: he's introduced standing in the background, listening to classical music on his headphones and completely disconnected from the rest of the world. Then, when Malky informs him of a problem (a drug holder apparently cut some of the dope he was supposed to be keeping safe), he removes the headphones, and sniffs the holder for a few seconds, before declaring him innocent. Stansfield's next scene shows him leading a gang of thugs towards the holder's apartment: he takes a moment to down a pill and muse on how much he likes "these calm little moments before the storm," before charging into the apartment with a shotgun, killing the holder's wife, the holder's teenage daughter, then finally cornering the holder himself... so he can chat about classical music while the rest of his gang search the apartment for drugs.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Malky shouts angrily at Willi Blood for killing Mathilda's brother and endangering him and the rest of Stansfield's gang.
      Malky: Look what you did, you killed a four year old kid. Did you really have to do that!?
    • Tony's outraged at the idea of hiring a twelve-year-old girl to act as a killer.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The movie is about a man named Leon and he is a professional hitman.
  • Expy: Léon is Victor from Nikita. Same actor, and they even share a euphemism for their job, "cleaner". Luc Besson has said that they're basically cousins. (In Victor's case it's not a euphemism: his job is cleaning up after killers, not killing like Léon.)
    • Willi Blood strongly resembles Gary Oldman's Drexyl Spivey of True Romance, also a white dreadlocked eccentric somewhat dim-witted amoral criminal. In truth, Gary actually fashioned Drexyl after Willi, making the two mutual expies.
  • Fade to White: When Leon is shot in the back just as he was about to achieve the freedom he was seeking.
  • Family Extermination: The film begins with a family being wiped out by contract killers (the father was in bed with corrupt cops involved with the drug trade and tried to rip them off): the only survivor is the little girl Mathilda, who finds herself being guarded by contract killer Leon, who develops a fatherly feeling for her and teaches her how to use firearms.
  • Fat Bastard:
    • From his brief screentime, Mathilda's father definitely qualifies as an example of this trope. Not only is he abusive towards his own daughter but he's very lecherous even jumping at the opportunity of having sex with his wife.
    • The Fatman himself given his involvement in the drug trade. Tony even calls him "fat bastard".
  • First-Person Dying Perspective: During the climax, when Léon is shot from behind, the camera brightens at the instant of the gunshot and then sinks down to the ground as seen with his own eyes.
  • Foil:
    • Stansfield to Leon, who's his opposite in nearly every way. Leon's a Consummate Professional while Stansfield is Ax-Crazy and has a Hair-Trigger Temper. Leon tries to act cold and aloof while being a much better person than he lets on, Stansfield can appear charming but is really a raging maniac. Leon is a straight edge man who doesn't use drink, smoke or using foul language, while Stansfield is a drug addict who swears all the time. Both men exhibit almost childlike qualities, but while Leon treats a potted plant like his best friend and takes childlike joy in musical movies, Stansfield's idea of fun and games is hunting down and murdering an entire family.
    • Mathilda contrasts León in that she's a very adult-like child while León is a very child-like adult, and while Mathilda has the thirst for violence despite never having killed anyone, León is a lot more deadset against violence (despite being a hitman, meaning violence is his day job).
  • Follow That Car: Subverted - Mathilda sees a car containing the people who murdered her family drive off. She flags a cab:
    Mathilda: Follow the blue car.
    Cab Driver: I suppose you want me to blast the music and go through the red lights?
    Mathilda: No, I want you to drive slowly, take the hundred bucks and shut the fuck up, okay?
  • 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.
  • French Accordion: Although the film isn't set in France, the soundtrack for the movie does use the accordion for any emotional or lighthearted moments between Leon and Mathilda. It also helps that the director and composer of this film are French.
  • Friend or Foe?: Stansfield's gang nearly shoot one another on several occasions during the massacre, and at least one ESU officer is killed this way.
  • The Ghost: Maurizio, an associate of Tony. We only hear him briefly speak to the Fatman when Leon has a phone but he's pretty much kept offscreen for the rest of the film.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Mathilda's father gets all family members to stay home and clean the apartment instead of going to school/work, probably in an effort to appear tidy and reliable to Stansfield. Instead, this gets everyone who stays killed by Stansfield and his men. Stansfield later comments that the kids "should have been at school".
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Generally inverted. Stansfield is always seen wearing a beige suit and white shirt, while Leon is often seen in a black peacoat, black pants, black beanie and black tea shades.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Stansfield and Malky are introduced doing this on Mathilda's dad. Malky plays the "good cop", trying to be reasonable with Mathilda's dad and implicitly saying he doesn't want to disrupt Stansfield, who is listening to his music and hates being disturbed. When Malky decides his efforts aren't getting through, he pulls Stansfield over. Stansfield plays "bad cop" by getting uncomfortably close to Mathilda's dad and sniffing all over him, then threatens him with a deadline to recover the lost drugs.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Played Straight when Leon "cleans" the first of the Fatman's guards. Most of the rest are disposed of in a gunfight behind window blinds. Later killings, particularly those of Mathilda's family, but not her brother, are shown in all their gory... er glory.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • Naturally since this is set in the Mafia stronghold of New York's Little Italy, Leon and Tony speak a bit of Italian in the opening scene of the film.
    • The Puerto Rican store owner speaks Spanish to Leon when he is getting milk. Mathilda says "Hola, senor" towards him when she's getting some groceries.
  • Guns Akimbo: Leon initially uses two pistols when attacking the ESU officers raiding his apartment.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way:
    • The paintball rounds Léon uses in the "Sniper Rifle Erector Set" to train Matilda. These rounds are used for close-quarters training and lack the velocity to hit a target at the distance the politician was implied to be from them.
    • Léon's IKEA Weaponry on the rooftop. Assembling/breaking down a scoped rifle on-location does not happen. Any time a firearm is modified (changing a bolt/barrel, attaching a suppressor, etc.), its accuracy is greatly affected. This is why once a rifle is "sighted in," it stays in that configuration - otherwise, the weapon's sighting must be zeroed out again.
  • Gun Stripping: Leon shows Mathilda how to disassemble a gun.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Stansfield loses his cool in nearly every scene he's in, often screaming at the top of his lungs to his underlings and even his superiors.
  • Hand Cannon: Stansfield carries a customized Smith & Wesson Model 629 "Classic Hunter" chambered in .44 Magnum. The 629 was a fairly common weapon that had several normal production runs; what Stansfield carries was a one-off customization of one of the rare, limited production run models. The "Classic Hunter" isn't small to begin with, and the unfluted cylinder, shortened barrel, and muzzle crown make the thing look even bigger.
  • Hand Gagging: When Mathilda gets captured by the SWAT team, one member handgags her so she would not scream and warn Leon about the approaching police force.
  • Hard-Work Montage:
    • There is one in the film where Leon and Mathilda are doing exercises, assembling firearms and drinking milk.
    • Another montage in the international cut shows Leon and Mathilda going on different hits.
  • Harmful to Minors: Mathilda Lando's entire life even before she became Leon's apprentice.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Mathilda's stepmom didn't hear Stansfield entering and thus never knows he's there until he executes her with his shotgun.
  • The Hero Dies: Leon is shot by Stansfield but is able to kill him with a grenade before he dies.
  • Heroes' Frontier Step: Leon proves that he is not your typical hitman is when he allows Mathilda to live at his apartment and uses a pig puppet to cheer her up after her family is brutally slaughtered by Stansfield.
  • Hope Spot: Léon almost makes it out of a standoff between himself and EVERYONE in the NYPD, but gets killed in a tunnel a few yards from freedom by the Big Bad. Though not before taking the Big Bad with him. "This is from... Mathilda..." BOOM!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Léon: Stay away from him. He looks like a weirdo.
  • If We Get Through This…: As Leon ensures Mathilda escapes from the cops trying to kill them, he promises her that he'll meet up with her and they'll move somewhere together and put down roots. Minutes later, just when it looks like he'll escape, he's killed by Stansfield shooting him in the back. He at least uses his last moments to ensure Stansfield goes down with him.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Léon's sniper rifle he assembles on the rooftop.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: Leon gives this advice to Mathilda, allowing her to hit her target on the first try, with a paintball rifle from a rather long distance too.
  • Insult to Rocks: Mathilda claims she was more of a mother to her little brother than her pig of a step-mother was.
    Léon: Don' talk like that about pigs. They're usually much nicer than people.
  • In the Back: How Leon gets killed by Stansfield.
  • Jerkass:
    • Stansfield, to put it mildly.
    • Mathilda's abusive father and half-sister.
  • Jumped at the Call: Mathilda shows particular zeal for avenging her innocent brother.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The NYPD is not happy about the slaying of an entire family with no explanation (other than Stansfield's crew of DEA agents and cops saying they were doing their job).
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Surprisingly, Stansfield of all people gets this moment while killing Mathilda's father and stepmother. Considering that the former was a bastard who stupidly stashed the drugs away from the DEA agents and cops and the latter was otherwise apathetic to her daughter and son, you won't feel particularly bad about their deaths. Played with in regards to Mathilda's stepsister, who was a bully towards her but on the other hand she dearly loved her younger brother making her a bit closer to a Jerkass Woobie.
  • Kill the Cutie: Mathilda's younger brother has only a few minutes of screentime and no lines but he's shown to not only care about her but he is indeed very cute. Unfortunately for him, he would be killed by Stansfield and his crew. The photo with her older half-sister showed that she really loved her as much as Mathilda did.
  • 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.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: As a contrast to León's meticulous stealthiness, Stansfield just charges in guns blazing during the massacre at Mathilda's house, much to the displeasure of Only Sane Man Malky.
  • Leitmotif: The soundtrack has a tune called "A Ballad for Mathilda", which is quite gentle and sweet, signifying Mathilda's innocence, but with some darker beats towards the end to hint the darkness in her soul.
  • 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 Neal becomes more suspicious, light shines on Mathilda's face from the opening door and we see her look of relief.
  • Loose Floorboard Hiding Spot: Mathilda sneaks back into her apartment and pulls a large stack of money from a hiding place underneath a floorboard.
  • The Lost Lenore: Leon's girlfriend, a rich young girl from Italy who was brutally murdered by her father for simply dating a boy who was from a "not so respectable" family.
  • The Mafia: While not the primary focus, they are very much present throughout the story with two of the main characters Leon and Tony working for the organization.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: One of the main leads is a 12-year-old girl who becomes the apprentice to a hitman after her family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: An early version of the screenplay provides a very clear example of this trope. Stansfield coldbloodedly massacres Mathilda's family, including her father, mother, teenage sister, and infant brother. The sympathetic Leon and his protégé adhere to a "no women, no children" creed; gunning down random men in a park for target practice is just fine. This got toned down in the production to having Mathilda shoot just one man in the park with a paint pellet, and asking to "use real bullets next time", but the fact that the original idea was even considered is telling. Additionally, countless male mooks are massacred, together with a SWAT team (who were only doing their jobs, albeit for a corrupt boss), and Leon's contracted targets who were never depicted doing anything unsympathetic.
  • Mercy Kill: Leon considers doing this to Mathilda after her family is killed, but backs out as the last moment.
  • Messy Hair: Mathilda's hair is messy the morning after her first night sleeping in Leon's bed.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint:
    • When Mathilda needs to get past the metal detector at the DEA building, she hides a weapon in the take out food bags she is delivering. The guards are careless and don't check the bag's content because Children Are Innocent.
    • When Leon goes to rescue Mathilda from the DEA building he passes through the metal detector. The arsenal he's carrying sets it off, but he punches out the guard before the guard can do anything about it.
  • Misplaced Accent / Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Leon is an Italian immigrant living in America, but he's played by Jean Reno, a Frenchman of Spanish descent who speaks English with his rather thick French accent.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Leon is kicked out of his hotel after Mathilda tells the clerk that the two of them are lovers.
  • Mook Horror Show: The opening hit scene. Leon knocks off the Fatman's guards one by one — point-blank headshot, garrote from the ceiling panel, pulled over the stairwell by a necktie, numerous unseen shootings — without anyone (mooks or viewer) ever laying eyes on him. "Those fuckers blocked both the exits," mutters the Fatman, when seeing one of his mooks hanging by the neck on CCTV. Finally, the Fatman ends up with a knife to his throat, produced by a disembodied arm out of shadow, and Leon gives him a phone over which he's instructed to leave town immediately.
  • More Dakka: After Léon wipes out their entry team, the ESU 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.
  • Naughty Narcs: Pretty much all of Stansfield's crew who work for the DEA and New York law enforcement.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Leon and Tony work for the Mafia but they never hurt any innocents and only go after violent criminals.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Leon has very simple rules about his clients: "No women, no kids, that's the rules."
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Saving Mathilda is what eventually gets Leon killed... but he was never happier.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Léon hides above the doorway as the ESU team enters his apartment. Fairly justified, in that he was just inside the room, right above the door. The incoming SWAT team are all wearing respirators, which really seriously cut down all peripheral vision.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: As a general rule of thumb in the movie: If you don't see León, he's probably right behind you.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "This is from Mathilda." Stansfield's response is promptly a calm "Shit..."
    • This also happens a few minutes earlier, during Léon's battle with the ESU team:
      "Do you see him?"
      Yes. He's right here. He's got a gun to my head.
    • At the beginning of the movie, you can almost feel the Fat Man's heart stopping for a second when Lèon materializes from the shadows and puts a knife on his throat.
  • Old Soldier: Even though it's not outright stated, Neal has two military dog tags around his neck. Judging by his age and the timeframe of the movie, it's likely that he would have been The Vietnam Vet.
  • One-Word Title: Leon.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Léon gets shot in the shoulder by an assault rifle while hanging upside down. After dropping one of his guns and grimacing, he shoots the ESU officer and manages to pull himself back up above the door.
    • Also happens to Stansfield early on in the film when he gets clipped in the shoulder. He seems more upset about the damage to his suit.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: A not-so-subtle caricature of a jogging Bill Clinton serves as Mathilda's sniper training.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: At the end, the camera zooms up from Mathilda onto the skyline of New York.
  • Parental Substitute: As Tony takes care of León in every way and serves as an older voice of guidance, his relationship with him has echoes of this. The international cut reveals he's been taking care of León since he was 19.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The first true indicator that Léon is a good guy is when he performs a little puppet show with a pig-faced oven mitt to cheer up Mathilda.
    • To an extent, Mathilda's half-sister dearly loved her little brother if the family photo seen in the apartment is anything to go by.
    • About the closest Stansfield has to showing any genuine kindness is when he does a secret handshake with Willi Blood at the DEA office.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Leon defeats Stansfield using the suicide version of this. After being mortally wounded, Leon hands Stansfield the pin that has been pulled from a grenade. Stansfield is puzzled for a second, then opens Leon's jacket to see about a dozen grenades strapped to him. Stansfield has just enough time for an Oh, Crap! before being blown to bits.
  • Pink Is Erotic: In one scene, Mathilda is wearing a new pink outfit and later expresses her interest in sex to Leon.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The murder of Mathilda's family especially her younger brother by Stansfield is what motivated her to work with Leon to avenge their deaths.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: In an imitation game, Léon fails to recognize Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, and Charlie Chaplin, while Mathilda confuses John Wayne with Clint Eastwood.
  • Posthumous Character: Leon's girlfriend and her father, who are long dead by the events of the movie.
  • Precocious Crush: 12-year-old Mathilda has a crush on Léon, an adult. The international version makes it much less precocious, with Mathilda actually propositioning Léon for sex.
  • Primal Scene: Mathilda and her sister walk in on her father and mother making out in the bathroom.
  • Profane Last Words: Stansfield's last word is "Shit."
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: Mathilda takes a gun and fires several wild shots out the window at the passerby below to show Leon that she has enough disregard to human life to become an assassin.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Willi Blood shows poor trigger discipline with his Kimel AP-9. Startled by the combination of the shotgun blasts from Mathilda's dad killing one of Stansfield's men, and Mathilda's brother breaking cover from under the mattress that Neal is about to rip open, he raises his gun with one hand and lets loose a barrage of bullets that rip through the entire apartment, killing Mathilda's brother and sending Stansfield and all of the other men diving for cover. Malky chews him out for this afterwards.
    Willi Blood: [Glasses Pull] ...Wow...
  • Recognition Failure: Mathilda dresses herself up as various celebrities, but Léon fails to recognize any of them, even Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe. He does however recognize Gene Kelly thanks to seeing Singin' in the Rain before.
  • Re-Cut: The film exists in two different versions. The Professional is the American cut; Leon is the international cut (sometimes called Version Integrale.) The American version is edited down mainly to remove any moral quandaries about Mathilda's actions - in the longer international version her crush on Leon is not so innocent, and more training scenes show her assisting with actual hits.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cleverly inverted at the end of the film, when Mathilda returns to the boarding school. The headmistress simply doesn't buy the relatively mundane (and untrue) explanation that her whole family died in a tragic accident as the reason for her long absence, and asks her to tell the truth as a condition of taking her back. Mathilda obligingly lets rip with the true story, which by any objective standard is far more unbelievable, though it is apparent the headmistress senses her sincerity and believes her.
  • Rescue Romance: Becomes Troubling Unchildlike Behavior in the International Cut. After Léon rescues her from the DEA office, Mathilda changes into a pink dress and starts talking to Léon about the importance of losing your virginity with a man you love. Léon turns down her advances, and they compromise on sharing the bed.
  • The Reveal:
    • Stansfield and his men appear to be just another drug gang. Then when they hear police sirens approaching after the massacre, Malky calmly says they've got to go, but Stansfield tells Willi to stay behind.
      Willi: What do you want me to tell them?
      Stansfield: Tell them... we were doing our jobs.
    • When Stansfield and his crew visit Tony's restaurant after Malky's death.
      Stansfield: I have a lot of respect for your business, Tony. When you've killed for us and in the past, we've always been satisfied. And that's exactly why today is going to be very, very hard for me. My man was killed right here on your turf and the chinks tell me that the hitman was kind of... the Italian type.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Leon storms into the DEA building to rescue Mathilda, leaving behind a trail of bruised and dead bodies.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted. Mathilda has trained with the hitman Leon. By chance, she learns of where the people she wants her revenge on work. She arms herself, sneaks in successfully, hunts down Stansfield in the bathroom, and is promptly caught and very nearly shot dead by the same.
  • Role Called: The full title of the movie refers to both the character and his occupation as a professional assassin.
  • Russian Roulette: In the International Cut, Mathilda does this to show Léon she's ready to become a killer and does this with a half-loaded revolver. Léon informs her that the chamber is loaded (he can hear the difference), then knocks her hand away at the last second, which is just as well because the revolver really goes off.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Mathilda's younger brother is introduced as the only member of the Lando family that truly loves her. After he is killed by Stansfield and his crew, Mathilda decides to go on a quest for Revenge with Leon.
  • Selective Slaughter: Leon has a strict "no women, no kids" rule when carrying out his jobs. This is part of the reason he helps Mathilda seek revenge against the drug dealers; they slaughtered her whole family, including her little brother.
  • Self-Surgery: Leon returns to his apartment and is seen patching himself up in the shower, showing that he had been injured carrying out one of his hits.
  • Senseless Violins: Léon is shown carrying an instrument case when moving house, though he never removes a weapon from it.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Mathilda is out getting groceries while her family is being killed by corrupt cops. She comes back, acts nonchalant, and hooks up with Leon for safety, and then revenge.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Mathilda has her first crush on Léon. In the European version, she outright propositions him for sex.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Mathilda usually dresses in midriff-exposing outfits, but she changes into a beautiful pink dress after Leon rescues her from the middle of the DEA headquarters. Then she starts talking about the importance of losing your virginity with someone you love, giving Leon a serious Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better:
    • Stansfield uses an Ithaca 37 shotgun fitted with a tactical flashlight on the pump handle and a pistol grip when he makes the raid on Mathilda's family's apartment.
    • Malky uses an Ithaca 37 shotgun with an extended tube magazine.
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Mathilda ditches school to be able to follow Leon around. When her teacher calls early on asking about her absence, she pretends to be her own mother and tells the teacher that Mathilda is dead.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Léon signs into a hotel registry under the name "MacGuffin".
    • Mathilda seems to like The Transformers, as she is seen watching the show on TV in various scenes. The film occasionally has closeups of characters from the show such as Optimus Prime and Megatron.
    • Singin' in the Rain is discussed and seen throughout the film from Leon watching the movie in a theatre to Mathilda dressing up as Gene Kelly and singing the titular song.
    • Madonna gets quite a few references in the film such as a poster of the singer in the Lando apartment and Mathilda singing "Like A Virgin" while wearing the former's costume.
    • Mathilda's impression of Marilyn Monroe was inspired by a similar scene in Wayne's World where Wayne does an rendition of Monroe's "Happy Birthday, Mr. President".
    • Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise are mentioned by Mathilda when trying to convince Leon to train her to become an assassin.
    • Norman Stansfield flat out says to his superiors "I haven't got time for this Mickey Mouse bullshit" after asking him about what happened during the apartment raid.
  • Lady Swears-a-Lot/Sir Swears-a-Lot:
    • Mathilda, a 12-year old child no less. Her father and half-sister are also quite foul-mouthed.
    • Stansfield. Even the very last word he says is "Shit..."
    • Mr. Ruben who constantly uses profanity towards Léon and Mathilda.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: There's a first-person POV example after Leon is shot in the back by Stansfield.
  • Sole Survivor:
    • Mathilda is the only living member of the Lando family after the fatal raid on their home by Stansfield and his crew.
    • Benny is the only surviving member of Stansfield's crew by the end of the film.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: While discussing the beauty of Beethoven, Stansfield has a "creative" way of discussing the composer's shortcomings.
    Stansfield: So powerful... But after his openings, to be honest, he does tend to get a little fucking boring.
  • Spare a Messenger: While Mathilda tries to go after Stansfield, Leon carries out a hit on a Chinese gang trying to move drugs on Tony's turf. When he reaches the table where the boss is seated, he finds Malky at the table and remembers him from the "raid" on Mathilda's family. Malky tries to protest "Easy man, I'm a cop!" but Leon executes him, saying "No women, no kids". It's implied that he spared the man seated next to Malky since someone had to tell Willi Blood exactly what Leon said, and Willi relays this when informing Stansfield of Malky's death.
  • Spiteful Spit: Mathilda spits at a SWAT officer when he removes his hand from her mouth.
    • The film also received a spiritual successor of sorts in the form of Wasabi another Luc Besson movie about a badass killer played by Jean Reno who has to protect a young girl from crooks out to kill her. Only that said badass likes wasabi instead of milk and he's a commissaire instead of a hitman. In Poland and South Africa, the distributors even went as far as to give it the subtitle of "The Professional".
  • Spit Take: Virtually a Running Gag with Leon spitting out his milk whenever Mathilda makes an age-inappropriate statement.
  • Stab the Salad: Played With. Leon is teaching Mathilda how to be an assassin. They set up a sniper rifle on the roof and shoot a politician jogging in the park, only for us to realize that it was a paintball gun.
  • 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.
  • Stealing from the Till: It's hinted that an inversion is in play; judging from Tony's cagey surprise when Leon brings up the money that Tony has been "taking care of" for him (coupled with the fact that Tony, let's face it, a bit of a shady character), it's implied that Tony has at the very least been dipping into Leon's savings under the assumption that Leon doesn't care about it and isn't keeping track.
  • Storming the Castle: Mathilda tracks Stansfield's crew to their precinct and infiltrates it with the intention of taking her revenge. She fails to accomplish this task and seems on the verge of being charged with some serious offenses, but luckily Léon shows up to take out Willi Blood and Neal and saves his apprentice.
  • Straw Nihilist: Stansfield seems to be. While he doesn't care about other people's lives (like most sociopaths do), he also doesn't seems to care about his own. During the slaughter of Mathilda's family, he is wandering around in his men's field of fire without any hesitation or precaution. Although it could be because of the drugs, in his last scene, he hasn't taken any drugs and still doesn't seems to care when he discovers that he's about to die. No fear, no anger, no surprise on his face, just mere disappointment.
    Stansfield: Shit...
  • Student–Master Team: Assassin-in-training Mathilda forms a close yet unusual bond with her mentor Leon.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    Stansfield: Bring me everyone.
    Benny: What do you mean "everyone"?
    Stansfield: EVE-RY-ONE!!!
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The film sets up Mathilda, having finished her training, tracking down Stansfield after a chance encounter. Utilizing her new found training, she loads up her guns, slips into the building, and is promptly caught by Stansfield. Because she's 12 and naive, while he is a grown man and has been doing the same thing for years.
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: The DEA agents are hard-pressed to explain the brutal gunfight that stirred the plot into action, but nobody ever questions why they were there in the first place, and they are never seen pursuing actual police work throughout the film.
  • Taking You with Me: After Leon is mortally wounded, he blows himself up using one of his grenades to take Stansfield with him.
    Léon: Stansfield?
    Stansfield: At your service.
    Léon: (handing him something) This is from... Mathilda.
    Stansfield: (sees that it's a pin for a grenade) Shit.
  • 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.
  • Television Geography: The film fails Jersey geography spectacularly in its final moments: Mathilda is at the Spenser School, which is (according to an overheard conversation) supposed to be in Wildwood, New Jersey. However, the final moments of the film show that it overlooks the Hudson River and Manhattan. Wildwood is in fact an oceanfront community near the tip of Cape May, over 150 miles away from New York City. (The scene was actually filmed at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.)
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Stansfield sends two hundred ESU officers with an RPG — while regular cops establish a perimeter — after one man and a twelve-year-old girl in a cramped apartment building.
    Stansfield: I said take the guy out, not the whole fucking building!
  • There Is Only One Bed: After Léon turns down Mathilda's offer to sleep with him, Mathilda insists that at the very least he share the bed with her and not sleep on the couch. Leon is justly cautious, but nothing untoward happens. In the US cut, they just wake up in bed together with no explanation.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: Just after the apartment raid, Stansfield comes across a group of kids playing catch with a basketball. He grabs it out of mid-air, comments that "Kids should be in school," then gets into his car and drives off, taking the ball with him over their protestations.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mathilda's father at one point decided to steal drugs from corrupt DEA agents. Even when they call him out on it and give him a clear deadline to return the drugs, he ignores them and waits passively for them to return and kill everyone in his home. What makes this even worse is that he hadn't already sold the drugs or done anything else that may have left his hands tied; the agents find the package in his apartment that he was still trying to hide, meaning his wife, son, and one of his daughters were all brutally slaughtered merely because he was both too greedy and too stupid to live.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Mathilda's younger brother is one of the nicest people in the entire movie despite his brief screentime and he's killed by Willi Blood during Stansfield's raid on the Lando family apartment. The photo with his half-sister and the chalk drawing shows that he was an innocent, kindly boy.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The film's trailer makes it absolutely clear that it will end in an explosive showdown at Leon's apartment with Mathilda escaping the place.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: They briefly appear in a scene where Leon kills Malky and his Chinese associates.
  • Unorthodox Reload: When Stansfield is reloading his revolver, he snaps the cylinder into place with a flick of his arm.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Leon warns Mathilda that killing Stansfield will do nothing for her.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: Léon performs a particularly nasty Neck Snap to a mook in the movie's opening in this fashion, complete with a very Sickening "Crunch!".
  • Villainous Breakdown: As Leon proves himself harder and harder to kill, Stansfield gets more and more unhinged, to the point where he demands one of his lackeys to bring EEVVVERRYYYYONNNEEEE!!! to kill them.
  • Villainous Friendship: Leon's a Professional Killer and Tony's a mafioso, but he seems to be the only actual friend Leon has outside of work. He gives Leon almost paternal advice, looks out for his well-being, holds on to his money for him, and genuinely mourns him following his death. He even honors Leon's request to leave all his money to Mathilda.
  • Wardrobe Wound: During the raid on Mathilda's home, Mathilda's father manages to shoot Norman Stansfield in the shoulder. Stansfield is pretty subdued about this until he has the time to notice the damage done to his suit, whereupon he follows the injured suspect through the apartment, shooting him in the back. He does this until he's out of ammunition... and then starts to reload so he can continue shooting the guy's corpse.
  • Weapon-Based Characterization:
    • Stansfield carries a snub-nose Smith & Wesson model 629.
    • Léon uses customized Beretta 92FSs.
    • Benny uses a SIG-Sauer P226 pistol.
  • We've Got Company: The line is dropped by the mooks in the opening scene while communicating to each other that somebody is coming for their boss.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Really everyone in Stansfield's crew has no qualms or problems about killing children (with the exception of Malky). Willi Blood shoots Mathilda's 4-year old brother. Later, Stansfield threatens to kill an entire room full of children to get Tony's cooperation; if his demand hadn't been met, he definitely would have followed through.
  • You Killed My Father: Mathilda's motivation is that she wants revenge on Stansfield and his crew after they killed her brother. She very much informs him that It's Personal.
    Stansfield: And what filthy piece... of shit did I do now?
    Mathilda: You killed my brother.

"I think we'll be okay here, Léon."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Leon The Professional, Leon


Look what you did!!!

During the raid on Mathilda's home, Mathilda's father manages to shoot Norman Stansfield in the shoulder. Stansfield is pretty subdued about this until he has the time to notice the damage done to his suit.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

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Main / WardrobeWound

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