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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Luc Besson
Cast:
Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello
Writing Credits:
Luc Besson

Tagline:
A perfect assassin. An innocent girl. They have nothing left to lose except each other.

Synopsis:
Calling himself a "cleaner," the mysterious Leon is New York's top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Leon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family's sole survivor - 12-year-old Mathilda. But Mathilda doesn't just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Leon helps her track the psychotic agent who murdered her family. From the electrifying opening to the fatal finale, Leon, is a non-stop crescendo of action, suspense and surprises. This uncut version contains 24 minutes of extra footage deemed too explicit for the American audience.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$19.251 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 1/11/2005

Bonus:
Disc One
• Fact Track
Disc Two
• 10 Year Retrospective
• “Jean Reno: The Road to Leon” Featurette
• “Natalie Portman: Starting Young” Featurette
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Leon: The Professional (Deluxe Edition) (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2005)

Since this “Deluxe Edition” of Leon: The Professional represents my third review of the film, I’ll skip my discussion of the film. If you’d like to check out my full appraisal of it, please click here to check out my thoughts. To summarize, Leon remains a superb piece of work. It's a dramatic, exciting and emotionally moving action film that manages to avoid the pitfalls common amongst a variety of genres. It's not for easily upset viewers, but others should find it very compelling.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Leon the Professional appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As I noted earlier, this was my third look at Leon. For all intents and purposes, the Deluxe Edition acted as a reprise of the Superbit version. I didn’t see any differences between the original disc and the Superbit, and I also couldn’t find any changes - for better or for worse - in the Deluxe Edition.

The main issues revolved around edge enhancement. Far too much of the movie suffered from that distraction. Many shots displayed surprisingly prominent haloes, and these led to other issues. Most of the time, the image stayed reasonably concise and distinct, but due to the edge enhancement, more than a few examples of soft shots occurred. No problems connected to jagged edges popped up, but I saw some shimmering at times, mostly caused by a striped shirt worn by Natalie Portman in chapter 20.

Print flaws caused the other problems during Leon. These never became heavy, and they dissipated somewhat as the movie progressed, but they still caused more issues than I expected from such a modern flick. I saw occasional examples of specks and grit plus the occasional blotch, streak, or nick.

Colors presented the transfer’s strongest elements. The tones came across as nicely vibrant and dynamic throughout the movie. No signs of bleeding, noise, or other concerns appeared, and the hues consistently seemed vivid and well defined. Black levels also looked deep and dense, but shadows were slightly problematic at times. Some low-light shots were a bit opaque and seemed murkier than I’d like. Enough of the movie was attractive enough to boost my grade to a “B-“, but Leon remained a problematic image. This was its third version if we don’t count The Professional, the film’s US theatrical cut - couldn’t they have gotten it right by now?

In regard to audio, Leon has gone through a rough history on DVD. The initial release featured a 5.1 soundtrack that included very little surround information. To their credit, Columbia-Tristar immediately reissued that version and sent out one with a remastered mix. Unfortunately, when they put out the Superbit, it appeared to use the original forward-dominated mix that got recalled.

Like the Superbit, the Deluxe Leon included both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. I got the distinct impression that both came from the same source, as I discerned absolutely no differences from one to another. The pair seemed identical in virtually all ways.

Happily, this track didn’t replicate the flawed mix from the prior Superbit edition. However, it also didn’t appear to present a clone of the corrected audio from the first DVD. When I compared that one to this version, I thought the new Leon seemed to present slightly different mix that wasn’t quite as good as the corrected track on the original DVD.

The forward soundfield appeared pretty well defined, with consistently good localizing and a reasonably high activity level. The surrounds kicked in with lively but somewhat ill defined audio during much of the film. I felt that the amount of audio from the rear was appropriate but that the mix appeared slightly mushy at times. Most of the surround usage seemed monaural; I detected a few examples of stereo sound in the rears, but not many. Ultimately I found the soundfield to be a little more broad and indistinct than it should appear.

Overall, the quality of the audio was acceptable. Dialogue occasionally sounded somewhat rough, which affected the intelligibility of a few lines, but it generally appeared natural and crisp. Effects were very clean, but they lacked much range. The same went for music, which was clear and smooth but not as resonant as I’d like. Across the board, the mix failed to present much low-end response and often sounded thin and flimsy. Overall, I thought the mix was adequate but without the necessary heft to deliver an appropriately involving and explosive experience.

This two-disc “Deluxe Edition” of Leon offers the most supplements of the three versions available, though you shouldn’t expect a slew of components. The Superbit included nothing, while the original Leon tossed in only a few mostly minor pieces; the most significant was an isolated score, which doesn’t show up here.

On DVD One, we find a Fact Track. This works in the standard subtitle commentary manner. Text runs at the bottom of the screen that covers topics like the cast, locations and sets, production elements and good notes from the shoot. In the category of “annoying punctuation”, the track uses way too many exclamation points, but that’s pretty much my only complaint about the commentary. It includes a lot of nice information about the creation of the movie and helped add to my appreciation of the flick.

This leaves the bulk of the supplements over on DVD Two. We start with a 10 Year Retrospective. This 25-minute and seven-second program includes archival footage, movie clips, and new interviews with producer Patrice Ledoux, casting director Todd Thaler, director of photography Thierry Arbogast, costume designer Magali Guidasci, editor Sylvie Landra, and actors Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, Maiwenn, Ellen Greene, Michael Badalucco, and Frank Senger, They discuss the movie’s conception as a spin-off from La Femme Nikita, casting challenges, shooting in New York and Paris, the looks of the characters, a few real life connections in the story, Besson’s style as a director, and filming some specific scenes. Don’t mistake “Retrospective” for a complete look at the movie’s creation, but it includes quite a few interesting notes. We learn a lot of nice tidbits about the flick and find a lot to like here. The best part comes from the alternate takes of Gary Oldman as he threatens Matilda’s father.

Next we locate a featurette entitled Jean Reno: The Road to Leon. In this 12-minute and 23-second piece, the actor discusses his life and profession. We get information about his upbringing, his entrance into acting and the progression of his career, specifics about making Leon, and general thoughts about his work. It’s a fairly honest piece that doesn’t gloss over some of the problems Reno encountered. It doesn’t discuss many of his films, so it doesn’t work as a full biography or overview. That said, it’s interesting and presents a reasonable amount of compelling information.

Natalie Portman: Starting Young fills 13 minutes and 48 seconds with comments from Portman. I thought this would work like the Reno chat, but instead it concentrates mostly on Leon. She talks about her audition and desire to be in the flick, concerns exhibited by her parents, acting challenges, and the specifics of some scenes. I like the focus on her Leon experiences, as Portman tosses out many useful tidbits about what it was like to create the flick.

Finally, DVD Two offers some Previews. This area presents trailers for the “Ultimate Edition” of The Fifth Element, the “Special Edition” of Monster, The Grudge, Renegade, House of Flying Daggers and Dead Birds. Oddly, we don’t get the trailer for Leon, even though one appeared on the original DVD.

I like Leon: The Professional a lot, and someone else must enjoy it as well, since it’s received so many DVD releases. Overall, this Deluxe Edition is probably the most satisfying, though not by a lot. All three Leon DVDs present virtually identical visuals but display noticeably different soundtracks. This one falls between the two prior ones. It sounds decent and beats the Superbit set but doesn’t seem quite as involving as the mix from the original disc.

The Deluxe Edition adds some pretty good extras, and those may make the difference for fans. I think all of the various components are enjoyable and informative, but we don’t get a whole lot of them. No one will mistake this for a packed special edition, so while I’ll recommend this package for folks who don’t own the first release of Leon, I can’t advise anyone with that original DVD to get it. Those with the prior Superbit set should snag the Deluxe Edition if just to get stronger audio.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a really solid Leon DVD. All have various flaws, partially because they all use the same problematic transfer. Add to that various auditory mishaps and the poor flick’s not fared well on DVD. The Deluxe Edition is probably the most satisfying overall, but it still suffers from a mix of concerns.

To rate this film, visit the Superbit review of LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL