Back in the day when Luc Besson had standards and Natalie Portman could act this action film gave a fresh lease of life to the words 'overblown', 'intense', and that now hackneyed, abused and bedraggled word, 'passionate' (in its old meaning of intense feelings that controlled your every action, not ones that led to your part-time hobby, or doing your job ok).
The three leads, Reno, Portman and Oldman are possessed, driving the story to an amazing climax. And Besson fills the screen with meaning and purpose, delivering the kind of scenes that Hollywood includes in schmaltzy tributes to the magic of the cinema. The film is a genre unto itself - popcorn art-house. The continental style of Besson, the focus on Little Italy, presents New York with a fresh perspective even now.
The main story sounds controversial, the developing love between a hitman in his 40s and a 12 year old girl arguably more emotionally mature than him, and it is. Some people see Leon as only a father figure for the girl, Mathilda, but no, while it is love it is not familial love. However, Reno plays Leon in such an intelligent and sensitive way that the film never becomes distasteful nor illegal and the purity of the love remains, even if it hints at a future.
Gary Oldman is supremely talented in all of his films, an excellent Beethoven, subsumed entirely into Mason Verger, and magically metamorphosised into a human pair of slippers as Commissioner Gordon, but rewatching Leon now makes you realise that any role in which he doesn't play an out and out villain is a tragic art crime. He was born to play the kind of evil lunatic he is in Leon.