Leon: 20th Anniversary Edition (UK - BD RB)
Marcus watches Gen 1 Transformers with Matilda while learning to 'Clean'...
When Matilda (Natalie Portman)is the only member of her family left after Stansfield (Gary Oldman) and his gang kill her entire family because of a drug deal gone bad, she is taken in by lonely hitman Leon (Jean Reno). The unlikely pair soon set out on the path of training Matilda to become a hitman (or “Cleaner”) and their relationship soon becomes the most important thing in both of their lives.
Leon is 20 years old and outside of the odd 90s fashion choice with some of the characters it still feels as fresh, heartfelt and as exciting as ever. The core story of the professional hitman and a recently orphaned young girl apprentice is still a beautiful thing and the way the pair bounce off of each other is still as touching 20 years on.
Luc Besson hits all the right notes in this one and considering the more manic side of the director’s filmography, this is great to see. Jean Reno never feels like an actor playing a cool as a cucumber hitman, he totally embodies the role, making Leon one of the best hitmen in the history of film. This guy gets the job done and it’s still impressive stuff when you see his attention to detail and the way that he works. Countering that, seeing Leon’s life outside of the jobs he does and how Matilda changes all that is just the sweetest thing. These two are a classic onscreen duo and the fact we all not-so-secretly pine for Portman to return to the role to see how far Matilda goes in the cleaning business is a credit to the lasting appeal of the film and its characters.
Then there’s Gary Oldman. With all of his recent more level headed character roles (such as his wonderful Jim Gordon performance) it’s almost easy to forget he used to do manic, utterly awesome stuff like he does in Leon. He’s such a good villain in this world of corruption and he embodies evil (with a devilish twinkle in his eye) entirely.
Anyway, there’s little more to say about Leon that hasn't been said many times before. It really is a modern classic and with its 20th Anniversary upon us the film gets a sparkly new steelbook edition (which unfortunately I didn’t get with the review disc), so just what’s in store for Leon’s big birthday?
The image here is good but a little off of striking. Edges range from sharp to a little soft, detail skips between strong and a little flat and while the image is clean and bright there's a distinct feeling of the film's age all of a sudden (20 years, where did that go?). Strong black levels can often feel a little patchy in places, direct sunlight can sometimes blast out details on faces and the general slick crispness of modern Blu-rays is never really achieved, even though the HD upgrade is always noticeable.
There are real highlights. Little Portman's boots when we first meet her look like they're dangling off the top of the TV in your very own living room.The leaves on Leon's plant are so fresh sometimes you can almost smell 'em and as with all good Blu-rays, the light sourcing brings the presentation to life exactly how you want your favorite films to.
Leon is a favourite of mine and while this isn't the perfect visual presentation its a good one. It just would have been nice if this 20th Anniversary edition came with an upgrade as opposed to the existing remaster from the original Blu-ray release in a Steelbook case.
The score and general mood of the film is very good from the offset. The gun fire is strong and central, packed with a real punch. Dialogue sounds fantastic, filling rooms with realistic acoustics and the score is almost the extra character in the already great ensemble. The strings are crisp, the melodies really drive the scenes and bass underpins everything with real confidence. Every element is almost perfectly balanced in the film's well pitched moods and Leon has rarely sounded better. It's not the finest audio mix out there but it serves the film as well as it always did and all the elements compliment one another throughout.
So, there's less extras than the previous UK Edition. Sure we get the Director's Cut extended version as expected but then its just and 'Interview with Jean Reno' (06:45 HD) which is all too brief but still great. Then it's all over with an 'Interview with Eric Serra' (09:40 HD) the film's composer, which again is great but very short.
So lets sum up. Same great film. Both great versions. No new transfer, new but short features, no old features included and a shiny steelbook. It's a mixed bag and not exactly a fitting 20th Anniversary celebration of the brilliant Leon. So I guess it just comes down to how much you love steelbooks this time around because you get get pretty much the same deal with more extras for much cheaper in the previous edition. Shame.
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 3rd February 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LCPM 2.0 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 110 minutes
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