Plucked from a Russian market stall, Anna (Sasha Luss) agrees to become a model in Paris. Courted by a Russian industrialist, she longs for freedom, whereas he longs for her affections. Returning from the bathroom, Anna kills him with a swift assassin’s bullet to the head, revealing a past years in the making.
… a magpie of modern action movies.
In ‘Anna’, Director Luc Besson returns to the genre he created back in 1990 where a beautiful young woman with murderous skills is blackmailed into being an assassin. Denied a life of her own, she conspires to change the rules of the game so she can win back her freedom. So far, so transparent.
So, what has actually changed in the intervening thirty years?
In reality, nothing but time. Masquerading as a limp hybrid between the seminal ‘Nikita’ hoisted onto the arid plot line of ‘Red Sparrow’, ‘Anna’ is actually a magpie of modern action movies. Thieving fight sequences from ‘Atomic Blonde’, Besson’s usual flair for suspense served on a series of inventive angles is now gone. Whereas you can feel every punch and kick in Charlize Theron’s fight scenes in ‘Atomic Blonde’, Sasha Luss’s in ‘Anna’ feel superficially over-top in all their John Woo-like kineticism.
So, whilst Besson determinedly marches Luss down the now overfamiliar catwalk of ‘Nikita’s’ premise, he has at least padded out the scenery with some decent acting talent. Cillian Murphy and Luke Evans trade blows for the gruffest matter-of-factness as previously debuted by Tchéky Karyo, whilst Helen Mirren decently cigarette-chews her way through the scenery and glowers at us through glasses on loan from ‘The Incredible’s’ Edna ‘E’ Mode.
“Trouble never sends a warning” intones Sasha Loss, but sadly any surprise with ‘Anna’ was telegraphed a long, long time ago. Like trying on a pair of clothes thirty years too late, many of the things that made Besson’s ‘Nikita’ great, just don’t fit anymore. Eric Serra’s hissing funky bass lines now feel dated and the camera moves that set Besson’s early movies apart now feel pedestrian in the hands of Besson regular, cinematographer Thierry Arboghast.
-Again. What has happened to Luc Besson and his movies?
The harsh unavoidable truth is that the creative flame that Besson used to burn a hole through the nineties is out. As the budgets have gone up, the very qualities that made him a such singular talent, have blown themselves out. In a film that should really be retitled ‘3 Months Later’ for all of its timeline jumps, ‘Anna’ is a former glory recycled for a modern audience that either weren’t born when ‘Nikita’ crash landed into the nineties or have long since forgotten.
Either way, the signpost to Besson’s best resolutely points to the past. If you were disappointed by ‘Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets’, there is ‘The Fifth Element’. If you are determined to be disappointed by ‘Anna’ (or ’Lucy’ before her), Anne Parillaud is ready to blow you away as ‘Nikita‘.
Shorn of any real originality, Besson’s ‘Anna’ is sad, schtick-thin silhouette in an otherwise a glittering career.