#356/ 365 – ‘Leon’ (1994) – 110 mins
IMDb Challenge #228 / 250 – Ranked #35 – Lovefilm
Leon (Jean Reno) is a first-class hit man, but is also a sensitive guy who loves his potted plants. He is moral: “No women, no children” is his professional motto. He is sympathetic to his neighbor, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a typically rebellious twelve-year-old who has trouble with her family. But when her father runs afoul of drug kingpin Norman Stansfield, Mathilda turns to Leon for assistance.
Luc Besson is a director who knows how to make stylish action movies and ‘Leon: The Professional’ which was his first English language film, is one of his best. Set in the grittiness of 90s New York City, there’s plenty of fast-paced action which at times crosses the line of believability.
However what really holds the movie together is the riveting performances by Jean Reno as the title character and a very young Natalie Portman as his old beyond her years, protegé. You find yourself becoming so invested in them as characters as their beautiful if disturbing central relationship takes hold.
#357/ 365 – ‘The Matrix’ (1999) – 136 mins
IMDb Challenge #229 / 250 – Ranked #25 – DVD Collection
In the near future, Hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) is sought out to save the world. In order to do this he find out that his consciousness is part of a Matrix that keeps human bodies redundant and occupies their minds with a false reality. Is he “The One” to save humanity from destruction?
When exploding upon the world in 1999, The Matrix was groundbreaking not only for its highly technological, sensational and spine-tingling ‘bullet time’ special effects which have since been imitated in countless TV and video game productions – the lobby scene is greatest highlight of this effect. But it was also highly creative for bringing to the screen a high-adrenaline consistently entertaining and exhilarating original sci-fi adventure, it’s a strange but effective mix of martial arts and cyberpunk, which is still as fresh to take in as it was a decade ago.
In role of Neo who knows the world is not real, Keanu Reeves performance could have been delivered slightly better. Hugo Weaving clearly has fun as the villain of the piece as he brings a good mix of dry wit and menace. Though it’s Laurence Fishburne who steals scenes as the complex Morpheus, and delivers his lines in a far more interesting way.
Neo continued his in-depth journey with two equally good sequels in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’. But in the words of Morpheus, “free your mind” and take this trip its one you won’t forget in a hurry.