×

Leon: Version Integrale

This 132-minute director's cut of 1994 Gallic smash "Leon" ("The Professional" in the U.S.), runs 26 minutes longer and is, according to Luc Besson, the more poignant and sensitive version he'd have released had he not been obliged to excise scenes that tested disastrously with L.A. preview auds.

This 132-minute director’s cut of 1994 Gallic smash “Leon” (“The Professional” in the U.S.), runs 26 minutes longer and is, according to Luc Besson, the more poignant and sensitive version he’d have released had he not been obliged to excise scenes that tested disastrously with L.A. preview auds. For viewers who buy into Besson’s fantasy version of the Big Apple, this longer version, which opened June 26 in France, reps a game attempt to make wall-to-wall implausibility ring a shade truer emotionally.

The fable of a 40-ish, emotionally stunted Italian hit man whose buried feelings are reawakened by a precocious 12-year-old American orphan now provides many new background details in its version integrale, most of which underline the mismatched couple’s non-platonic attraction and reinforce the girl’s bloody apprenticeship in the fine art of contract killing.

It’s not difficult to intuit why moviegoers in the U.S. would not look kindly upon a narrative that romanticizes consensual pedophilia between a preteen gamin and a middle-aged hit man, however protective and shy the guy may be when he’s not plugging marks or slitting throats.

The restored story — with its greater, close-to-carnal emphasis on the love of Mathilda (Natalie Portman) for Leon (Jean Reno) — now makes more emotional sense. Whether it makes more commercial sense beyond Gallic and select Euro-screens is open to debate. (The tamer version got an “R” rating in the U.S. In France, customers need only be age 12 to buy an unaccompanied ticket to the franker version.)

In a key scene that reportedly provoked catcalls and outrage at a U.S. test screening, Mathilda openly propositions Leon, suggesting that he deflower her. In a reply that adds genuine resonance to Leon’s peculiar lifestyle, he reveals the terrible ordeal that drove him to abandon his native Italy for New York at age 19, ending his confession with “So I wouldn’t be a very good lover.” Leon and Mathilda do spend one chaste night together in the same bed, entirely at the kid’s urging.

An undeniably powerful scene of blackmail via Russian roulette — “I want love or death, that’s it,” Mathilda threatens, before aiming a loaded pistol at her darling noggin — leads to extensive extra scenes of Leon guiding Mathilda through the paces of learning how to kill people. The apprenticeship has been expanded to include a series of brash hits on wary apartment dwellers in which the girl is a full co-conspirator, with an intense mission to the home of a tattooed drug dealer.

Leon’s patient tutorials will strike viewers as either entertaining or nauseating, but pic is way beyond “Bugsy Malone” in its approach to overdressed kids with weapons. Matilda also sets fire to the dead dealer’s drugs, which, along with Leon’s policy of not popping women or children, is the closest the film comes to having an editorial point of view.

Besson has not taken this opportunity to correct false moves in the initial film. Although all potential witnesses were slaughtered, a member of Gary Oldman’s seamy staff still manages to describe in flashback-caliber detail an ambush he didn’t witness.

Popular on Variety

Leon: Version Integrale

More Film

  • Clement Miserez, Matthieu Warter

    Mediawan Acquires French Production Banner Radar Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mediawan has acquired a majority stake in Radar Films, the French production company behind “Belle and Sebastian,” one of France’s most successful family movie franchises. Headed by Clement Miserez and Matthieu Warter, Radar Films has been producing French and English-language films, teaming up with France’s top studios, including Gaumont and SND. Besides “Belle et Sebastien” [...]

  • Jojo Rabbit

    San Diego Film Festival Adds Environmental Focus

    Now in its 18th year, the San Diego Intl. Film Festival, produced by the nonprofit San Diego Film Foundation, once again steals the movie glamour spotlight from its neighbor to the north, combining major regional premieres with a focus on social and environmental issues. Running Oct. 15-20, the festival received more than 3,000 submissions from [...]

  • Alex in Wonderland

    Mandi Riggi Tells Post-Punk Tale of Rebellion in ‘Alex in Wonderland’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Aftab is a bright, feisty, British-Indian teen living under her parents’ watchful eye amid the hedonism and decay of Thatcher’s London. When her strict and traditional parents decide to marry her off to the first available Indian suitor, Aftab rebels, taking a job at a sex shop and setting off to write her own destiny. [...]

  • Festival Directors Panel at Pingyao International

    Global Film Festival Directors Talk Chinese Cinema in Pingyao

    One of the Pingyao International Film Festival’s strengths has been its ability to draw on founders Marco Muller and arthouse auteur Jia Zhangke’s powerful network of global festival directors, who this year made the trek to China’s coal country, in Shanxi province, to engage with new Chinese talent. They gathered for a panel Tuesday afternoon [...]

  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    Film Review: Angelina Jolie in 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'

    With her horned headpiece, impossible alabaster cheekbones and high-camp attitude, Maleficent looms as by far the most iconic villain Disney ever created. Landing Angelina Jolie to play the “Sleeping Beauty” baddie in 2014’s live-action redo was a dream-casting coup for which the studio was rewarded with three-quarters of a billion dollars at the global box [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content