"I like these calm little moments before the storm" are the first lines of dialogue uttered in my favorite scene from Luc Besson's Léon: The Professional. The sentiment is offered up by the drug-addled, crooked cop Stansfield (Gary Oldman) right before he barges into the apartment of Mathilda's (a very young Natalie Portman) parents and starts blasting everything that moves with his shotgun while humming Beethoven.
Besson's film has no shortage of fantastic sequences -- most of them involving star Jean Reno – but Oldman's blitzkrieg on the unsuspecting family is a pitch-perfect encapsulation of everything that makes Léon so utterly fantastic. The sequence is shot inside a small apartment, with Oldman stalking through narrow hallways and popping in and out of rooms like a Satanic Jack-in-the-Box while the family scurries in a futile attempt to avoid his wrath. While many of today's action films love to take a "bigger is better" approach when it comes to staging set-pieces, Besson's concept of the scene is more impressive because of the cramped confines. The hallways are so thin that Oldman fills them almost completely, creating subtle visual tension because the audience understands intrinsically that there's no way to get around him.