“Trouble never sends a warning,” states the titular KGB agent in Luc Besson’s latest flick. Fair enough, but here’s a warning all the same: waste your time and money on this by-the-numbers dreck at your own peril. Written and directed by Besson, this updated rehash of his 1990 pulpy thriller Nikita is a slick but offensively bland action film that magpies from other recent female-led spy thrillers like Atomic Blonde or the plenty-flawed Red Sparrow. It’s best summed up thusly: hot young female assassin breaks bones. That’s it. There’s one impressive, restaurant-based set piece, but it’s extensively showcased in the trailer, so that should save you the bother of watching the full film.
Like a great deal of Besson’s previous films, Anna desperately yearns to be considered as female empowerment but ends up as a faux-feminist pretext to fetishise Russian model Sasha Luss – who plays Anna – to the point of discomfort. Such objectification becomes even more uncomfortable when taking into consideration the persistent allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Besson, accusations which make tone-deaf lines like “Never put your faith in men; put faith in yourself” ripe for painful parody.
Off-screen considerations aside, it’s plain to see that Luss was cast solely for her looks, and Anne Parillaud she ain’t. On the plus side, Helen Mirren seems to be enjoying herself playing Anna’s handler Olga. As for the rest of the supporting players, Cillian Murphy and Luke Evans show up for the paycheck and should have chosen more wisely.
This all leads us to the niggling question: Whatever happened to Luc Besson? Once France’s most championed and iconoclastic modern auteur, with such films as Subway, Leon (The Professional) and The Fifth Element, he has over the years become the shadow of his former creative self, with duds like The Lady, The Family and the intergalactic merde that is Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. Anna adds itself to this ever-growing rap sheet, and much like a double-bill screening of The Fifth Element and Valerian would evidence how the mighty have fallen, Anna would make for a perverse back-to-back watch with Nikita to further witness the Frenchman’s almighty fall from grace.
Anna | Directed by Luc Besson (US, France, 2019) with Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Cillian Murphy. Starts July 18.
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