Luc Besson, 1994 (8.6*)
Critics panned this violent film when it came out, but I was captivated by the first time performance of newcomer (and amateur) 12 yr old Natalie Portman, who was discovered in a Long Island laundromat with her mom by a model agency rep on a weekend. When she went to the agency the following Monday, they sent her to audition for this film and she got the lead role.
She plays a young girl who goes out for some groceries while her family is massacred by corrupt drug agents, led by an insidiously evil Gary Oldman. She continues past her apt and knocks on the door of French hitman Jean Reno, who takes her in out of pity.
What follows is a western style bloodbath, as Reno is so good at his profession, and in his best film role (Ronin is another good one, a Frankenheimer action film with DeNiro) that no one can capture him, and he vows to protect the girl with his life, as well as teach her what he knows about survival.
This is an enjoyable action film, yet you also buy the platonic relationship and affection Reno develops for the tomboyish orphan. Portman displays incredible emotion (see photo rt) with no prior training as a waif cast adrift by the lawlessness of the big city. Portman is so good in this film that everyone could tell she'd be a major star, eventually garnering an Oscar® nomination for Closer.
This is now considered a cult classic, and is on many top film lists. Currently #35 all-time on the IMDB top 250.
Saturday, January 1, 2011