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If anyone had a doubt that Luc Besson has lost his touch, watch the recent Columbiana … but it made me nostalgic for the good old days when he was perceived to be an original re-inventor of violent thrillers, with his very personal style. I wondered whether that was a phenomenon of its time, or whether these films hold up a reality check today, so I came back to watch two of them: La Femme Nikita and Leon. And the first thing that I realized with surprise was that Leon is an English-language film… I always associated Besson with that very special flair of French-ness, but of course the film takes place in the US, so no surprise here. And maybe that is the reason why watching it today it loses quite a bit of its flair. It is in a way just another action flick that stands out only because of its actors, the story is completely generic and the production design and atmosphere do not have a lot to contribute.  So it is about Jean Reno in his prime, against Gary Oldman in caricature mode (he should have watched Die Hard before taking on that part, Alan Rickman shows you how to play crazy villain in style). And all decorated by Nathalie Portman who – at least I perceived this to be the case much more now than I did at the time when the film came out – is presented as a forbidden sex fantasy, hotpants, voluptuous lips and all.

There are some nice sequences in the film, and the action has a nice and down-to-earth tangibility to it. At the end of the day, Leon did not sustain its quality through the ages they way I had wished it to.

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