Monday, January 10, 2011
The Professional -- reality and relationships of life
Director: Luc Besson, 1994. (R)
An exciting action movie, The Professional is memorable as the debut film for Natalie Portman (Star Wars 1: the Phantom Menace). Cast at 11, she plays the 12-year-old Mathilda. And she does so in this prepubescent role with a remarkable range that precociously portends her later career.
Living in New York City in an cheap apartment, Mathilda is a lost waif. Her dad is a two-bit drug dealer. His violence is painted on her face, and she skips the private school to spend her days on the stairs. There she meets Leon (Jean Reno), her neighbor, a solitary man who carries the tools of his profession inside his long-brown overcoat.
Returning home, Mathilda walks past the open door guarded by a gunman and proceeds to knock on Leon's door, silently begging him to let her in and save her. This he does. His secluded world is shattered by this act and it propels him into a relationship he never wanted. When she finds out he is a "cleaner," a professional hitman, she pleads with him to teach her the tricks of his trade so she can take revenge on the men who killed her family.
God has given us this gift of life to enjoy. Solomon, the wise King of Israel summed it up: "So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (Ecc. 2:17). He saw life was hard. Yet he also said, " Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days" (Ecc. 9:9). We must toil away now but we will take it easy in heaven later.
Indeed, as Leon starts to teach her, she teaches him things back in return. She opens his heart to love, something he has not done in years. He begins to feel, to live, to love again. She, too, discovers a love for Leon that was not there with her abusive father.
Here is the horizontal relationship. We all have such relationships, including those with our birth family, our friends, and then the family we choose for ourselves through a spouse. Relationships bring richness to an otherwise squalid existence. Solomon, the writer of hundreds of proverbs, said, "A friend loves at all times" (Prov. 17:17). And the Apostle Paul said, "Husbands love your wives" (Eph. 5:25). Of course, parents are supposed to love their children. Such is the core of life, a life Leon missed out on until he met Mathilda.
The Professional, though, is an action movie first and foremost, and it brings it in violent bursts until it climaxes with an exciting extended scene in the apartment. It is here that both realize what they have gained and what they stand to lose: "I don't wanna lose you, Leon." She has found a father she never had. And he understands, "You've given me a taste for life." Let's hope it does not take a "cleaner" to personally teach us these lessons!
Copyright ©2011, Martin Baggs