Léon: The Professional - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Best Buy Exclusive)
- Street Date:
- July 11th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- Matthew Hartman
- Review Date: 1
- July 11th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 132 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
For this release of Léon The Professional on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, we've elected to keep Tom Landy's The Movie Itself portion from his original review because he wrote so passionately about one of his all-time favorite films and we loved his enthusiasm. As this is a fan favorite, there is little more to be said. Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts are new to this release.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
French auteur Luc Besson may have gained international acclaim for La Femme Nikita, cleaned house at the box office with his sci-fi smash The Fifth Element and had a hand in making Jason Statham into an action leading man with The Transporter, but for me his pièce de résistance will always be 'Léon: The Professional.' Brutal, beautiful, and controversial, the film isn't just Besson at his best--it's cinema at its finest.
In New York City's underworld, Léon (Jean Reno) is a "cleaner," a professional hit-man for a mobster named Tony (Danny Aiello). Léon is the best assassin in the city, and routine, order, and simplicity have molded his way of living. Of course, being an efficient killing machine does come with one major drawback -- he's not much of a "people person." Aside from Tony and his short-lived clients, Léon is someone who has very little human contact. When his best friend is his houseplant, it goes without saying that social skills just aren't his forte.
Léon's simplistic lifestyle unexpectedly takes a complicated turn when a drug deal in the next door apartment goes sour. After the family is massacred by a psychotic lunatic (played by a devilish Gary Oldman), the only one left is twelve-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman). In a moment of kindness, Léon offers sanctuary to the young girl and unwittingly invites in a whole heap of trouble in the process. Not only does Mathilda uncover what Léon really does for a living, she wants to become his student so she can have her revenge. As Mathilda's pain and persistence begin to wear down Léon's defenses, it isn't long before she's welcomed under his wing and into his heart.
Although Léon: The Professional does share a few similarities with Nikita ('Léon' was even inspired by Reno's "cleaner" character in that film), Besson crafts a tale that is entirely in a class by itself. The cinematography is simply brilliant, as the violent opening sequence locks in the electrifying tone for the picture. From then on, every action-packed hit is dripping with intensity, and the quieter moments in between are dreamlike and surreal. Virtually every scene is staged with such elegance and grace that it's hard to not be completely transfixed by this film.
Besson doesn't just captivate his audiences with soothing visuals, he also stirs the pot to make them restless in their seats. The backbone of the plot already pushes the morality envelope, as a pre-teen is being trained to kill in cold blood. But Besson goes one step further, placing the relationship between Léon and Mathilda in an area completely clouded in gray -- essentially creating one of the most unconventional love stories ever told. There are times where their screen time together is delightfully charming, and other instances where it starts going down a more disturbing path. While this may have crossed the line for some viewers, the intent was to create tension and ruffle a few feathers, and in that regard, Besson hits a home run.
There is also a great deal of depth provided by its three unforgettable performances. Reno really is at the top of his game here, juggling the two very distinct personalities of his character with dexterous precision. In "serious" mode Léon is experienced and confident, but when he's outside of his comfort zone he morphs into a shy and timid creature. Then there's Gary Oldman as the nutjob villain Stansfield. While he doesn't totally steal the show (which is good since this is supposed to be Léon and Mathilda's story anyways), he fully embraces his despicable role, and his portrayal is so unnerving that the rattled expressions on the actors playing his own goon squad just had to be genuine. Last and certainly not least is Natalie Portman, who gives such an endearing performance in her feature film debut that it's utterly mind-blowing.
If you haven't already guessed, Léon: The Professional is one of my all-time favorite movies. Between Luc Besson's unique vision and the impeccable performances of the cast, this is a powerful film where style meets substance in perfect harmony.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Léon The Professional makes its 4K UHD debut courtesy of Sony Pictures in a two-disc UHD + Blu-ray + Digital HD set. The UHD and Blu-ray discs are housed in a standard sturdy black 2-disc UHD case with identical slipcover artwork. Pressed onto a dual-layered UHD-66 Disc, the disc loads directly to a static image main menu with Sony's newfangled navigation system. Both versions of the film are available in 4K. All bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
As with any new format, one must keep expectations in check. When Sony was releasing new 4K Remastered editions of some of their most famous flicks like Spider-Man 2, Glory, and Ghostbusters, the writing was on the wall that the studio was getting prepped for UHD in a big way by providing fans an incremental upgrade before jumping to the bigger, brighter, bolder 4K UHD. Léon The Professional was given such treatment. That Blu-ray remaster was night and day better than what had come before featuring robust details, brighter more prominent colors, and sharper black levels. To that end, I honestly wasn't expecting much of a notable uptick in visual punch than that 2015 release. Apparently, there was a lot more room for improvement!
From the opening aerial shot of Central Park to the driving shots through New York to Little Italy, the differences between the two presentations becomes immediately clear. Detail clarity, colors, contrast, and black levels are beautifully captured with this HDR10 2.35:1 2160p presentation. If you've ever liked counting skin cells and liver spots, that opening conversation about "business" between Léon and Tony should fit the bill! This UHD presentation is all about the finest of fine details from individual hairs to the loose threads on clothing to the spackle on the walls - you may want to pause to just look at the little things.
To prep for this review, I watched the 4K Remaster Blu-ray for a stretch so I could do an apple to oranges comparison. In addition to the notable uptick in details, I was impressed with how well the HDR worked to balance contrast. Certain scenes some whites could look a little hot and as a result, whoever was on camera at the time could look a little pale, without any color tones. Now, with the improved color gamut and controlled contrast, the scenes still look bright and beautiful while allowing the cast to sport a healthy skin tone without looking too pink or too pale.
In accordance, Black levels reach a deep true inky color with a lot more shadow separation. Scenes where Leon is lurking in the dark with his gun drawn, you can now ever so faintly make out the outline of his weapon. Colors are vivid and bold and allow for some truly impressive primary pop. Reds especially get a lot more room to breathe - considering all of the blood and viscera throughout fans should appreciate that. Film grain is apparent without becoming noisy or intrusive. I honestly didn't expect to see such a big difference over the previous release, but with the brighter and bolder colors and improved details, this is easily the best Léon The Professional has looked on home video to date.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The Audio portion of this review comes from the previous 4K Remaster Blu-ray release reviewed by Michael S. Palmer as it is the exact same audio track.
Léon The Professional cleans its way onto Blu-ray with a spiffy new Dolby Atmos track (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) that elevates an already-admired sound mix, but is ultimately not quite as immersive as the new format has shown itself to be.
Léon The Professional has always been one of Sony's go-to titles for home video because it is popular as well as technically proficient. Everything you love about this mix remains the same. Clear dialog, even in chaos. A sweeping, immersive score from Eric Serra. Action sequences that offer plenty of gunfire-infused panning. In terms of flaws, I think one could wish for a little more LFE oomph from explosions, or perhaps a little more world building in the New York exteriors. But it's a very fun track, even if most of the film is more intimate than one might expect from a genre piece.
The Atmos elements improve upon a very solid foundation, but are somewhat limited when compared to modern (native) Atmos mixes. For the most part height channels are reserved for orchestral elements, which does pull the audience forward. There's also a great explosion where a grenade fireball rolls up and over the audience, as well as a sequence where ceiling sprinklers are raining down on us. Yet, when comparing Léon other catalog remixes like Bram Stoker's Dracula or The Fifth Element, both of which benefit from more intentional aggression, Léon is much more reserved and less Atmos-engaged.
Given that the original Blu-ray was rated 4.5 stars for audio, and that a non-Atmos AVR will produce a nearly-identical 7.1 TrueHD version of that mix, I see no reason to drop the numerical score. However, if one were to grade the Atmos portion of the mix alone, I would likely give it a very strong 4.0 Stars.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
For Sony's release of Léon The Professional on 4K Ultra HD, no new bonus feature content has been assembled. All Bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc. Read on Tom's thoughts on those bonus features.
10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back (SD, 25:10) – A decade after the film was released, the cast and crew took a virtual trip down memory lane to share secrets and other stories from the production. The feature also includes some alternate takes of certain scenes and footage of a prank the crew played on Natalie Portman during her final day of shooting.
Jean Reno: The Road to 'Léon' (SD, 12:25) – A brief interview with actor Jean Reno who talks about growing up in Casablanca, becoming an actor, and his experiences from 'Léon.'
Natalie Portman: Starting Young (SD, 13:50) – Like the feature mentioned above, except this one puts the young actress in the spotlight. It covers how she landed the part of Mathilda, how her parents influenced a few significant changes to the original script, and more. Some of her early screen tests are also included here.
Fact Track – A fact track (Extended version only) overlay can be activated to display periodic details about the production and other trivia during the film. The track is entirely text-based and projector owners should take note that it does overlap the black bar at the bottom of the screen.
Trailer (HD 2:25)
It's incredibly easy to say that Léon The Professional is one of the best action films ever made. Luc Besson has yet to make its equal in terms of character depth, emotion, and the perfect blend of suspense and pulse-pounding action. As this film's fans are many, any new release is met with an understandable amount of excitement.
For Sony's first 4K Ultra HD release of this film, there's a lot to be excited about. The film simply has never looked better. For those with a discerning eye, it's very easy to spot the improvement in details, colors, contrast, and black levels.
However, improved picture quality is the only thing this release has to offer. It features the exact same Atmos audio track and the same lackluster bonus features package as the previous 4K Remastered Release from 2015. If you don't already own the film or only had the very first Blu-ray release from 2009, this 4K Ultra HD release is a no brainer. Make the upgrade - now! If you're only a casual fan and already have that 2015 release, there may not be enough here to justify another purchase. I'm still calling this one recommended, it's gorgeous, but I still give a word of caution.
- UHD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy
- Theatrical & Extended
- 2160p HEVC/H.265
- English Dolby Atmos
- English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
- English SDH
- Cast and Crew Look Back
- Jean Reno: The Road to Léon
- Natalie Portman: Starting Young
- Fact Track
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