"The Professional" is a superficial yarn about a hitman (French star Jean Reno) who is befriended in his New York apartment building by an abused 12-year-old girl (newcomer Natalie Portman). When her family (to include her father, stepmother and two half-siblings - a teenage sister and 4-year-old brother) are killed by a vicious government agent (Gary Oldman), he reluctantly takes her in.

The rest of the film, as you might imagine, has Reno recognizing a side of him that has been awakened by his paternal friendship with this little girl. And he eventually teaches her about being a "cleaner."

The bulk of the film has Reno and Portman plotting to get revenge on Oldman and his henchmen. But Oldman's character is so over the top, so utterly ridiculous that the audience may feel prompted to laugh unintentionally.

Oldman's character is an agent for the federal government's drug enforcement agency, whose offices are so poorly protected that not only does Reno get in to kill a few officers but even Portman manages to get past security with a bagful of guns!

What Besson really seems interested in is balletic violence - slow-motion explosions, starkly lit bodies flying through the air. However, Sam Peckinpah he ain't.

"The Professional" is rated R for violence, profanity and a brief sex scene.