While not quite up to the standard Besson created with 'La Femme Nikita' this film thanks to some stellar performances is also an action classic. Natalie Portman, in her screen debut, is electric as young Matilda while Jean Reno gives his most iconic turn here. Best in show however is Gary Oldman with a vicious turn as an idiosyncratic corrupt D.E.A. agent. The action scenes are magnificent.
Something of a genre-standard, as it combines intense human intense/moving moments of romance and attraction with graphic bloodshed and tough realities. Jean Reno gives a performance heavily bent on physical prose - moreso than you might've initially noticed - and Natalie Portman foreshadows a long career of emotionally effective roles.
E V E R Y O N E E E E !!!!! (Exactly what I yelled when Gary Oldman won his Oscar). Stansfield & Churchill are his best creations ever: the ultimate bad guy+the ultimate good guy. This is actually based on a true life story. American version was oh so cut cos they're moralistic prudes. Yet I dare anyone to name me one male director that created more empowering female roles than Besson. Mathilda is my forever heroine♡
Personally, my only "viewing expectations" were of something with a reasonable amount of intelligence and I was completely let down. Everyone overacts, the script is sloppy to the point of idiocy and thematically the damn thing is all over the place. Never let it be said that Luc Besson can't shoot one hell of an action scene, though.
My favorite Besson film, the french cut of the film is the one to watch. You have to love it when auteurs styliaze violence this way. Plus it always help to have Gary Oldman as the psychopath. And goes to show how casting is essential to the style of the film xase in point Danny Aiello as Tony.