Sometimes you just have to quit while you’re ahead…
As writer/director Luc Besson returns to our screens with Anna we just can’t help but get the feeling that this is either a contractual obligation type of movie for him or his just completely out to lunch with a film that is just banal, lazy and just a rehashed mash up of some of his previous greatest hits.
The alluring Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) is plucked from a dingy Russian street market and transformed into one of Paris’ top models. But much like the Matryoshka nesting dolls Anna once sold, she has a secret. She’s one of the world’s deadliest government assassins and she’s going to have to use every skill at her disposal in order to find away to get out alive.
Occasionally you get challenges like Anna. Ones where you struggle to describe what a mess this truly is. As he rather sloppily assembles riffs from some of his previous efforts that he has both directed and produced like La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Kiss of The Dragon and others to make something that is trying to come off as emotionally and culturally woke putting woman in positions of power while still managing to be misogynistic as all hell in something that could easily be renamed ‘The Spy Who Bored Me’
It’s a Cold War thriller…in the wake of the Cold War that plays so randomly at times you wonder if he didn’t just adapt deleted scenes from other films he’s seen and made to make this. It BARELY makes any sense and feels like Besson was asleep half the time directing it.
To be fair, Besson has always been good at action and the set pieces here in this film are actually very well done, but they suffer from being incredibly similar to things that we’ve seen before. Sadly good action doesn’t make up for flashbacks and flash forwards that are so poorly conceived that someone still in film school would have known how hackneyed and awkward they all come across.
While the script has the occasional quality zinger, it’s mostly a cavalcade of bad dialogue that goes next to nowhere and excuses to use women as sex objects but make sure you prove how kick ass they are as well while making sure that any narrative becomes incredibly convoluted. This movie has been done 100 times before…and been done substantially better.
None of this actually lies on the shoulders of Sasha Luss who Besson probably thinks discovered her after having her in his last flop; Valerian & The City of a Thousand Planets. In spite of only having a handful of screen credits to her name, she actually does a passable job in the leading role as a young women who has constantly been abused and let down by men to finally take back her own power. Sure she occasionally uses her sexuality as a weapon, but we never feel like she’s conflicted about it, it all plays really weird as Besson just didn’t give the character a ton of depth. Helen Mirren has fun chewing the scenery as her KGB handler and is quite possibly trolling us just by being there, but I don’t doubt she knows what a turd this one is while Cillian Murphy and Luke Evans both cash paychecks to make out with Luss on screen and reminisce about good films that they’ve been in.
Ultimately, Anna commits the penultimate cinematic sin. You can be a trashy and poorly made film and still be kind of entertaining, but this film more than anything is just unimaginably dull and laughably made. Audiences will be wishing for more Valerian because that at least had ambition, where as this feels like it was made while on Ambien.