It feels as though Natalie Portman has been around forever, but the actress only turned 40 earlier this year. That might have something to do with the fact she’s been knocking out top tier performances for over a quarter of a century already, lending support in a number of acclaimed projects and all-time classics.
Portman’s first-ever feature film credit came in Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional back in 1994, the international smash hit that deservedly earned a reputation as one of the decade’s best action movies. The Academy Award winner plays Mathilda, a 12 year-old more than familiar with the seedier side of life due to an upbringing that saw her father stashing drugs for corrupt cops, while her mother neglected her needs at every turn.
Jean Reno’s neighbor Léon is a hired hitman working for the mob, and takes the youngster under his wing after her family are bumped off by Gary Oldman’s maniacal DEA agent in what remains one of the actor’s most bug-eyed, scenery chewing and dementedly entertaining turns in a career largely characterized by them.
Slick, stylish, well-acted and packed with interesting spins on a well-worn setup, the influence of Léon: The Professional was felt throughout international action cinema for years. The modern great is now streaming on Netflix, where it’s got to be viewed as must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.