Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Mathilda

Last week, for my Women Who Wow Wednesday series, I wrote about The Bride, Quentin Tarantino’s blitzkrieg. This week, I’m concentrating on Mathilda, Luc Besson’s hitgirl—raw steal for nerves and a tummy made of iron.

Natalie Portman as Mathilda
Natalie Portman as Mathilda

When Natalie Hershlag auditioned for the part of Mathilda in the movie Léon: The Professional, everyone had fallen off their chair for her jarring performance. She would make the perfect compliment to Jean Reno’s hitman character, Léon. Little did anyone know this wonderful actress would grow up to become the celebrated Natalie Portman, who also starred as Evey in 2005’s V for Vendetta.

A child to a father who made a bad deal with drug dealers, Mathilda found herself orphaned by the very people who ought to have protected her—the cops. She turns to her neighbor down the hall at the bloody scene of the murder for protection: Léon, a professional hitman working for the outfit—the organization the very same cops hire to remove the competition.

Léon and Mathilda
Léon and Mathilda

Well, at least that’s the gist of the movie’s plot. What makes Mathilda unique is her age; she’s twelve years old, and her determination proves her capable of becoming a hitgirl, good enough to exact revenge one day on the scum who murdered her family.

At the time, 1994, the movie proved quite controversial for a number of reasons

  • Because of Mathilda’s young age, some critics found her use of firearms unnerving
  • Again, because of her young age, those same critics found portions of her performance bordered on the sensual
  • Lastly, the violence and language depicted in the film may suggest the filmmakers condoned such behavior in society

Any movie critic wondering about violence, sex, gunplay and kids have yet to watch Sergio Leone’s 1964 film Fistful of Dollars. Produced thirty years before, it remains a classic among film buffs. Guaranteed, a more conservative audience viewed this film back then.

Anyway, back to Mathilda. Under Léon’s tutelage, she learns how to handle a gun, the art of stealth, and proper marking of a target. She learns the professional code of ethics. Mathilda also learns to stop smoking, stop swearing and stop hanging around weird dudes. Critics tend to forget those things when they review the movie for the first time.

Léon: The Professional
Léon: The Professional

She transforms from a lost child to a tough, goal-oriented young girl. However, director Luc Besson never intended her to become a crazed juvenile killer. He wanted her to remain innocent.

What do you think about children portraying roles typically suited for adults? Have you ever seen Léon: The Professional? Would you recommend your friends to see it? What did you think of Natalie Portman’s performance?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

The Bride

Welcome back to Women Who Wow Wednesday, the series about female characters I admire in film and TV. If you’re looking for additional WWW Wednesday posts, you can find them under the Features box of this site. Have fun!

Boy, oh, boy… I’ve wanted to write about this character for so long. I think it’s time. Back a few years ago, she rocked my world. I just hope I can do her justice with my homage to her character. Bear with me as I gather my thoughts.

Beatrix Kiddo
Beatrix Kiddo

If you haven’t seen the movie, I insist you drop everything, go to Netflix and get it. Hold on, read this post first, then get the movie!

In the first movie, the audience simply knows her as The Bride, a blonde of unassuming demeanor. Beaten to an unrecognizable blob by members of her own gang the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, she rises from the pool of her own juices, seeking those who betrayed her. One by one, she exacts revenge, leaving no one behind.

Who is she?

The Bride
The Bride

She’s Beatrix Kiddo. Although we don’t know that until the second movie where with her bare hands she cracks open the coffin they buried her in and continues to spread her wave of terror on those miserable traitors who left her for dead. The conclusion is when she comes face to face with the mastermind of the perpetration—Bill.

Yes. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m talking about Uma Thurman’s character in the movies Kill Bill: Vol. 1-2.

When the studio A Band Apart Films released Quentin Tarantino’s ode to the Seventies Kung-Fu genre, it placed a solid bet of its success on the performance of Uma Thurman. After all, she worked in Tarantino’s first movie Pulp Fiction, how could they lose? Wow, did they sure win on that wager. The statuesque actress’ character cut, maimed, killed, decapitated, disemboweled, hurt, pounced, exterminated, vanquished, conquered, splattered, squished, destroyed, terminated, disfigured, mutilated, injured, slaughtered, and slew anything and everything that stood in her way. Here was a character with the single-minded resolve to hunt down and kill any collaborator who had turned on her. She was perfect.

And the box office loved her. A $30 Million budget—the film grossed $180 Million worldwide.

Kill Bill
Kill Bill

Her weapon of choice? A Samurai sword fashioned by Hattori Hanzo. The finest katana sword he ever created. And, the deadliest. With it, The Bride cut down the Crazy 88. But let her bare hands not fool you. She used them to pluck the eye out of Daryl Hannah’s character Elle Driver. And let’s not forget the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique she ultimately delivered on David Carradine’s character, Bill. She gave a whole new meaning to the phrase: He died of a broken heart.

If anything is clear, when the character The Bride made her debut in 2003, she not only made money for the studio, she also became a symbol of what was missing in movies a decade ago: A strong, leading lady, with determination and potency well above her male counterparts.

What do you think of Uma Thurman’s brutal portrayal of The Bride? Did she set the bar too high, leaving other female leads to rethink their acceptance of leading roles in action flicks? Let me know. Leave me a comment!