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Lèon: The Professional: Deluxe Edition

Perhaps the most revelatory detail provided in the latest DVD incarnation of 1994's Lèon: The Professional is its creation as an afterthought of writer/director Luc Besson. Mired in years of troubled pre-production on what would later become The Fifth Element (1997), Besson decided to step away and revisit character of Victor, played by Jean Reno, from Le Femme Nikita (1991), and what is perhaps his most skilled work as a director was born. This version of the DVD contains the same version of the film as the Uncut International Version, which essentially allowed the relationship between Lèon and Mathilda (Natalie Portman) to become slightly more overt in a manner that was deemed unsuitable for American audiences upon its initial release stateside. The story of Lèon (Reno), the reclusive hermit who moonlights as a hitman, is the tale of a child in a man's body, devoid of education and culture, who finds himself taking care of Mathilda (Portman), his 13-year old neighbor whose family is killed by sociopathic DEA agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman). As Lèon begins to accept the young girl as his apprentice, a love grows between the slow older man and the "wise beyond her years" teenager, and when Mathilda's thirst for revenge gets the best of her their love begins to cost them dearly. But is this new set worthy of an upgrade? Perhaps only for the aficionados for whom a Superbit transfer is a selling point. Columbia TriStar presents the Lèon: The Professional: Deluxe Edition in a set which should be the definitive and final version on the DVD format. The Disc One presents a Superbit edition of the film, with an anamorphic transfer (2:35.1) and both DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The second disc of the set provides a rather tame set of extras in the form of three new featurettes. "A 10 Year Retrospective" is a 25-minute series of interviews with the cast and crew (with the notable exception of Besson himself), documenting their thoughts and recollections on the project. Perhaps Besson was absent due to the presence of Maiwenn La Besco, his former fiancée with whom his relationship began when she was 15 years old. "Jean Reno — The Road to Lèon" is a brief (12 min.) biography of the French actor, giving a quick tour of his life from his childhood in Casablanca to his rise to fame as a European film star under the direction of Besson. "Natalie Portman — Starting Young" (14 min.) is a similar piece on Portman's past, what little of it there was at the time, and features an extended look at her audition footage. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Scott Anderson



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