ANNA (France 2019) ***
Directed by Luc Besson
ANNA returns flashy French director Luc Besson (THE FIFTH ELEMENT, arguably his best movie) to his NIKITA (the film re-titled LA FEMME NIKITA in North America) roots with an ultra-violent slick spy/assassin action pic. ANNA is ridiculous, stylish, sexy and camp. Love it or hate it. Two of my film critic colleagues, TV personality critic Richard Crouse and NOW Magazine critic Norman Milner both hated it with a passion. I sort of loved it, so why the enormous difference in opinion?
One reason is how one wants to look at the film. ANNA is tacky. It would not be a surprise if the film would be re-titled LA FEMME ANNA. Besson has done this before and better. This might just be a vehicle for his new muse, super model Sasha Luss.
The plot can be summed up in one line. Quote Wikipedia: “Beneath a woman's striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the most feared assassins on the planet.” Of course there is more. Anna (Luss) has a lesbian lover, Maud (Lera Abova) as well as two male lovers, Russian Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) and American Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy). Overlooking Anna at all times is KGB chief Olga (Helen Mirren. looking sufficiently ‘awful’ for the part, glasses and all). The film is unveiled in non chronological order, where more than too often, an incident occurs before the story moves back 3 weeks or 3 months to explain what really happened causing the incident to occur. The tactic is laughable but this could be Besson’s intention to mock the spy/mystery genre.
The film lasts a little under 2 hours, which is quite the chore if you hate the film from the start. On the other hand, regardless the fact, there is enough going on in the background, exotic sets and locations, beautiful people, outrageous action set-ups (like the hot sexy closet scene).
Apart from the hours of action nonsense, there is one sad part that stands out - the subplot involving Anna’s lesbian girlfriend Maud. Maud is oblivious of Anna’s dubbed ice and just loves her regardless. Maud dances in happiness, often whispering sweet nothings to Anna who completely ignores her for other worries. One wishes better for this poor character which somehow stands out in this emotionless flick. Besides Abova, Helen Mirren as Olga and Cillian Murphy as Lenny deliver stand out performances that one wishes would save the movie.
The only thing consistent about the outrageous story is Anna’s desire to become free, which she obviously attains at the very last moment in the story. I am sure that there are quite the few in the audience who wish they could be free as well from Besson’s movie.
Besson has had a string of flops including VALERIAN which I absolutely adored. One has to give the man credit not for want of trying. ANNA cost $30 million to make but looks as if it cost more than double that. It is expected to have a soft opening at the box-office.