Leon: The Professional
We are trying to really hard to behave here by putting only one Jean Reno-starred, Luc Besson-directed movie in the list since we need to give other filmmakers a chance.
Anyway, The Professional is the story of Mathilda (Natalie Portman, in what we consider as the best role she ever had), a troubled young girl with a less than admirable family who happens to live in the same apartment building as a strange and quaint old man named Leon (Jean Reno), who happens to be a hitman for the Italian Mafia. Mathilda somehow manages to form an attachment to Leon while Leon is drawn to her straightforward personality. The two make for an interesting pair as Mathilda slowly learns of Leon’s job and wants to be trained to become an assassin as well.
This film is tops in terms of acting, story, and best of all, action. The interactions between Leon and Mathilda are heartwarming and wonderful (though this film has had the fortune of being released before the current age where any of this would have been misrepresented as pedophilia –which would be a shame since it would overshadow the amazing nuance between the characters of Leon and Mathilda). The Besson does not try to paint the world with bias, he presents things as they are, complete with all the bleak and ugly tragedies that reality entails –but still manages to keep the viewers trying to feel optimistic. Of course, the greatest part of the film are the amazing action sequences –from Mathilda’s early training sessions to Leon’s incredible one-man takedown of entire groups of trained soldiers in the climax of the film.
This Quentin Tarantino film is delivered in a mixed chronological order –the scenes presented in the movie are not in order. This is done to achieve some storytelling results. Many consider this film a very iconic piece in terms of movies. The story basically revolves around Vincent (a killer for hire), Butch (a boxer), and Jules (another hitman who works with Vincent). The storyline is split into two main narratives, one for Butch, and another plot involving Vincent and Jules.
There is not really that much action in the movie, so if you were hoping for plenty of gun fights, this is not it. But there is violence here, and it is delivered in that typical Tarantino fashion that manages to make the improbable look good on camera. While it is a good movie, there is no reason to buy too much into the hype for it. There is a lot of that Hollywood pretentiousness prevalent in the movie that is designed to be loved by critics –and it manages to get that exact result.
This Michael Mann film presents viewers with an interesting scenario: a cab driver is forced by an assassin to work as his getaway driver for a one-night killing spree.
Jamie Foxx stars as Max, the unfortunate cab driver hired by Vincent (played by Tom Cruise). Vincent offers to pay Max $600 to be driven around the whole night, and Max agrees, not realizing the trouble he is about to get into. So when Vincent gets off at his first stop and the corpse of a drug-lord falls on top of the taxi, Max suddenly realizes that his life is about to be turned inside out.
The storytelling in the film is exceptionally well done –especially the interactions between Max and Vincent, which feel organic and realistic, often serving as a second voice that speaks on behalf of the audience’s own questions about the events that are going on. The action is the crazy kind of fun. While it has none of the big flashy setups seen in Cruise’s other action films, the gunplay is fast and brutal, showing viewers the exact what kind of assassin Vincent really is.
Road to Perdition
This mob film focuses on the story of a former Irish mob enforcer named Sullivan. The son of the mob boss, Conner, screws up and ends up killing an associate. This forces Sullivan to help kill the associate’s men. Sullivan’s son, Sullivan Jr, is a witness to the event. To make matters worse, Conner kills Sullivan’s wife and younger child in an attempt to kill Sullivan Jr. In response to this, Sullivan quickly escapes with his son and he begins to meticulously bring the mob apart in order to flush out Conner from hiding.
Road to Perdition has a lot more drama than action, but the central conflict is pretty fun to watch. A more modern variation of this story can be seen in John Wick (former organized crime assassin destroys the criminal organization in order to flush out the wayward son of his former boss). In any case, if you wanted some hitman-themed story with a bit of old-school mob flavor in it (think Prohibition era), this is a great movie to watch.
The Day of The Jackal
When an insurgent group fails to assassinate the president of France, they decide to hire a professional assassin to accomplish the job. The hitman they find is man who goes only by the codename of The Jackal. While the police and investigators manage to get wind of the fact that an assassin has come to France to kill the president, the Jackal does not back down from his plan and proves himself to be quite capable and elusive. Now, the police must do what they can in order to stop the killer and learn his true identity.
The Day of The Jackal is a pretty old movie (1973) so don’t expect much in terms of pacing and delivery. It does however, have a good deal to teach not only about hitman stories, but crime drama as well (the depiction of police investigation in this movie is pretty good). The way that the Jackal leaves a trail of bodies in his wake is quite telling of his characteristics, making him a very suitable antagonist in the movie.
Wrap Up: Professionals Get the Job Done
Hollywood has a lot of great films that focus on the stories of hitmen as both heroes and villains (RED, John Wick, Equalizer, 22 Bullets, to name a few), and it is easy to see why. The life of a contract killer is often romanticized as a high stakes game where they take on the most dangerous jobs for lucrative rewards. The moral lines they cross also makes them such interesting heroes, as their motivations and methods often allows for even a brief focus on the lines that they cross –something taken for granted when other stories allows protagonists to kill random goons without as much as a second thought.