LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
Starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello. Directed by Luc Besson. (1994, 109/133 min).
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
Starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker. Directed by Luc Besson. (1997, 126 min).
Luc Besson was always an interesting action director, but I personally wish we was a little more prolific these days. Sure, he’s kept busy writing and producing such stuff as the Taken and Transporter franchises, but most of them are missing that off-center quirkiness which make his own classic movies of the 90s so unique. Two of those films, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, have been resurrected yet-again for brand new Blu-Ray editions, this time mastered in 4K and Dolby Atmos audio.
From a story standpoint, Leon is remains Besson’s most accomplished film. The story of an efficient-yet-uneducated hitman (Jean Reno) who becomes the reluctant guardian and mentor to an orphaned pre-teen (Natalie Portman) is not only filled with kinetic action and gunplay, it's also funny, touching and morally complex, with superlative performances and dynamic characters.
|"Admit it...this is more fun than playing with Barbies."|
While Leon may be Besson’s best and darkest (though a strong argument could be made for La Femme Nikita), The Fifth Element is by-far his most imaginative and fun. Visually dazzling and featuring the most bizarre production design ever committed to a sci-fi film, it’s like Blade Runner on LSD. Like if Roger Corman were given a $100 million budget, there’s nary a moment when it takes itself seriously, from the visuals to the film score to its depiction of aliens...right down to a cast of characters so over-the-top that star Bruce Willis mostly plays straight man to their antics. It’s no surprise that The Fifth Element has developed a massive cult following over the years, and is arguably Besson’s most beloved mainstream film.
|Ruby Rhod...the most obnoxious man of any century.|
Of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you already have one or both of these titles in your collection. So are these upgraded editions worth it? From technical standpoint, they’ve never looked or sounded better, and if you’re a home theater buff, the answer might be yes. However, the previous editions sported pretty damn good transfers too, so unless you’re truly discerning, what’s left are the bonus features. The ones included with Leon are the exact same as the previous edition, while those on The Fifth Element (save for the ‘Fact Track’) appear to be new to Blu-Ray (though not necessarily recently-made).
Regardless, these films feature the imaginative work of a uniquely gifted writer-director at the peak of his powers, and both are worth owning to revisit again and again.
NOTE: Both films are also being released as part of Sony's Supreme Cinema Series, with Clear-Case packaging and comprehensive booklets.
LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (With the exception of a digital copy, all bonuses are the same as the 2009 Blu-Ray edition)
- Extended Version (with optional accompanying ‘Fact Track’)
- Featurettes: “Jean Reno: The Road to Leon”; “Natalie Portman: Starting Young”; “Cast & Crew Look Back”
- Original Trailer
- Digital HD Copy
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
- Making-Of Featurettes: “The Visual Element”; “The Digital Element”; “The Fashion Element”; “Imagining The Fifth Element”; “The Elements of Style”
- Cast Featurettes: “The Star Element” (individual shorts featuring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich & Chris Tucker); “The Diva” (a profile of Maiwenn and how she came to play the role)
- ‘Fact Track’ Option
- Digital HD Copy
PURR...UNLESS YOU ALREADY OWN LEON ON BLU-RAY