Optimum has finally released Leon on Blu-ray. The release coincides with a selection of other Blu-ray titles from Luc Besson including Subway and Nikita.
Leon was released before the major Hollywood hit, The Fifth Element. I honestly don’t think this film ever got the applause it truly deserves. The only people who know this film actually exists are its hardcore fans. I had never heard of it until a friend of mine introduced me and I can now see why this has a huge cult following.
Leon has an excellent story to it and some great action scenes as well. The film, made in 1994, stars Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and a young Natalie Portman. The film was well received upon its release in cinemas. This is the first release on Blu-ray. Also this is the first time a director’s cut has been released in the United Kingdom.
Leon (Jean Reno) is an Italian immigrant who fled Italy after having committed a crime there. Leon now resides in New York City and is working for “Uncle” Tony as a professional hitman. He lives with his plant in a small apartment in the city, next door to a girl called Mathilda (Natalie Portman) who he speaks to on occasion. Her father is a drug dealer working for a corrupt cop called Stansfield (Gary Oldman). One day while she is out shopping for her family, Mathilda comes back to the apartment to find that a drug deal has gone sour and her entire family has been killed. In shock that the killers are still in her apartment, she proceeds to the end of the corridor to Leon’s apartment and knocks on the door in hopes that he will open it and save her life. Leon lets her in to his apartment but he does not realize that he is letting her into his life as well.
Mathilda soon discovers that Leon is a professional hitman. As soon as she finds this out, she begs Leon to teach her how to kill so she can get revenge on her family’s killers. The story continues along this theme and shows how a man who had nothing, begins to feel for a little girl and comes to her rescue to save her. Will Leon and Mathilda live happily ever after together?
Leon is a great action movie and is much underrated. The film will take you deep into each character and give them each time to develop. Luc Besson has done a very good job directing this movie and it has to be one of the best films he has made. It is a little unknown to some people so I feel more marketing could have been done for the film. But anyone who has seen this movie before knows it is a gem in disguise.
The video is presented on a BD50 disc with a 2:35:1 aspect ratio. I can’t quite put my finger on this transfer. It’s not reference quality material but then it’s not a bad transfer either. Colors are healthy in the codec. There is also healthy grain present in the picture. Detail is very sharp for a film that was released 15 years ago. If you’re not looking for a reference quality transfer, then you will enjoy this. This is a solid step up from the DVD, so I give it 3.5 out of 5.
The audio uses a 5.1 DTS HD soundtrack and this soundtrack is top quality. The audio is very clear and the bass is very loud. I can hear no defects and I think this is as good as it’s going to get. Again this is not reference quality material but it is a great audio codec nonetheless.
The extras on the disc are your standard extras for this sort of Blu-ray release. There is nothing to write home about. But it’s good to see Optimum release Leon with both the extended and theatrical version of the film.
Theatrical/Extended Version: For the first time ever in the UK we are getting a release with both a Theatrical Version and an Extended Version.
Jean Reno- The Road To Leon: Interview with Jean Reno about his role in Leon and flash backs about the character and how he got the part.
10 Year Retrospective- Making Of: This is a general making-of featurette that gives you an insight into each character and the plot of the film. It also includes interviews with actors Jean Reno and Natalie Portman.
Natalie Portman- Starting Young: An in-depth interview with Natalie Portman about her role in the film and how she got it.
Trailer: A trailer of the film’s theatrical release in 1994.
Leon is a cult classic and a great action movie with that little something extra in the mix. Optimum has done a great job releasing this film with both an extended and theatrical version on the Blu-ray disc. This is personally one of my favourite films ever released. The only negative thing I have to say about this release is that it deserved a better transfer. I know fans of the film will be disappointed. However, for a 15 year film this is and probably will be as good as it gets. I have no problems with the audio and give it two thumbs up. Leon is worthy of any collection and I know this will make a great addition. I highly recommend this title. I give this Blu-ray release a solid 4 out of 5.