Did Tony in “Léon: The Professional” Ever Intend to Give Léon His Money?


One of the four main characters in Léon: The Professional (1994) is Tony (Danny Aiello), the Italian gangster who runs his operation out of an Italian restaurant. He’s also Léon’s (Jean Reno) source of income, dishing out the human targets that require Léon’s specific skills. Tony seems charismatic at first, and does a good job putting up a facade as a nice guy.

...Until a time when Léon starts to ask about money.

It turns out Tony doesn’t actually pay Léon for any of his “cleaner” work. He holds the money, telling Léon he’s more trustworthy than a bank, because “banks always get knocked over. And nobody knocks over old Tony.” Given the places Léon lives and his lifestyle, he’s clearly not rolling in excess cash.

When Léon eventually inquires about accessing some of his funds, Tony skirts the issue. When Léon makes Tony promise that, should anything unfortunate ever become of him, all his money is to be given to Mathilda (Natalie Portman), Tony agrees. But, as a credit to the acting skills of Danny Aiello, we’re reluctant to believe him. He breaks eye contact with Léon when making promises. The way he shifts around the issue of giving Léon money is fishy (he tells Léon he can get money any time he wants, then hands over $1,000, which we know is nothing compared to what he’s accrued at the mentioned rate of $5,000 per head). He’s just genuinely unbelievable when he talks, and we start to wonder if Léon is doing all this nefarious work for nothing.

It seems Tony preys on the fact that Léon doesn’t know how to read. He’s a foreigner unfamiliar with FICO insurance. He doesn’t have any real friends before Mathilda (Tony and a houseplant are the only companions in his life) so he takes him at his word. All the while, it appears Tony is waiting for the hitman lifestyle to catch up with Léon so a lifetime of undispensed earnings get comfortably retained in his pocket.

Of course, this all becomes more evident when Léon meets his demise and Mathilda attempts to collect on Tony’s promise. He gives her the same runaround nonsense about banks and security and access without actually ponying up the bills. He tries to buy Mathilda off with $100, telling her to come back in a week for more allowance, knowing full well someone is going to catch up with her in the meantime.