Tag Archives: Luc Besson

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010, Luc Besson)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is almost too precious for its own good. It’s so enraptured with the world it creates–Paris in 1911, where pterodactyls and mummies can come back to life–it sometimes forgets to get the viewer as involved.

Besson does a fantastic job bringing that world to life and a lot of it is close to being his best work… but there’s a disconnect. The beginning takes quite a while to introduce the lead–Louise Bourgoin makes the film as the titular Adèle–and in that instance, it has some charm. It seems like the supporting cast is going to have something to do with her. Regardless of the actual plot, she’s got to be the focus.

But she’s often not. I mean, she doesn’t even have a scene with Gilles Lellouche, who has the second-most screen time. He’s a comic police inspector who’s crossing paths with everyone but Bourgoin.

I imagine it’s a facet faithful to the source comic book (which I have unfortunately yet to read–Tardi is fantastic and is only now getting translated and printed in the States). In other words, there’s Besson being too precious again. It feels like he’s doing a straight narrative adaption of the source material, instead of making the storytelling approach appropriate for film.

There are some nice supporting performances, particularly from Jacky Nercessian and Nicolas Giraud.

Besson’s enthusiasm to sell it as a franchise leaves the ending wanting, making a film with the potential to be singular just good instead.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Luc Besson; screenplay by Besson, based on the comic book by Jacques Tardi; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Julien Rey; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Hugues Tissandier; produced by Virginie Silla; released by EuropaCorp Distribution.

Starring Louise Bourgoin (Adèle Blanc-Sec), Mathieu Amalric (Dieuleveult), Gilles Lellouche (Inspecteur Albert Caponi), Jean-Paul Rouve (Justin de Saint-Hubert), Jacky Nercessian (Marie-Joseph Espérandieu), Philippe Nahon (Le professeur Ménard), Nicolas Giraud (Andrej Zborowski), Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (Agathe Blanc-Sec), Gérard Chaillou (Président Armand Fallières), Serge Bagdassarian (Ferdinand Choupard), Claire Perot (Nini les Gambettes), François Chattot (Raymond Pointrenaud), Stanislas De la Tousche (Le chauffeur Pointrenaud) and Youssef Hajdi (Aziz).


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Danny the Dog (2005, Louis Leterrier)

Danny the Dog is better than it should be–it’s not as good as it could have been, but it’s definitely better than it should be.

The film finally gives Jet Li an appropriate English language role. Here, he can turn in a decent performance while doing his physical stuff. Li’s very likable (maybe because he’s so diminutive).

Villain Bob Hoskins is a bit of a problem though. While dynamic, the character’s too one dimensional (it’s one of those wholly evil villains) and Hoskins doesn’t bring anything to it.

The big surprise of the film (besides it being good and Morgan Freeman starring in it) is Kerry Conden, playing Freeman’s stepdaughter. Conden binds the film. She and Li’s chemistry (it comes mostly from her; he’s good here, no miraculous) is very nice. It’s not quite a romance and not quite not.

Director Leterrier’s the film’s greatest asset. His fight scenes utilizes Li’s martial arts abilities in the narrative, but he also brings the human element.

The story’s incredibly simple. It might be entirely free of subplots–for example, Freeman’s great apartment–he tunes pianos–is never explained–so it shouldn’t have much room to go wrong. Except it’s Besson; he eventually decides to dramatically shift the narrative’s course, trashing some great plot threads.

While the film doesn’t live up to its potential, it’s a shame it isn’t more acknowledged. Between Conden’s performance, Leterrier’s direction and even Besson’s script (which starts smart, then goes easy), Danny the Dog is good stuff.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Pierre Morel; edited by Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music by Massive Attack; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, Jet Li and Steven Chasman; released by Europa Corp.

Starring Jet Li (Danny), Morgan Freeman (Sam), Bob Hoskins (Bart), Kerry Condon (Victoria), Vincent Regan (Raffles), Dylan Brown (Lefty), Tamer Hassan (Georgie) and Michael Jenn (Wyeth).


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Léon (1994, Luc Besson), the long version

When he’s doing good work, Luc Besson makes these transcendent films, but even some of his lesser works often have some moments with that quality.

Léon does not.

Many of the elements are there–but something’s off. Maybe it’s something simple, like Jean Reno is supposed to be playing an Italian immigrant who, apparently, just acts really French. Maybe it’s Gary Oldman’s histrionics. But, while both those things are definitely contributors to the film’s general failure, it’s mostly because Besson doesn’t really know what he’s doing with Natalie Portman.

If the film worked, it’d be a brilliant metaphor about her character’s transition into puberty… it’d be the Iron John for girls, only with guns.

And it’s never clear if Besson even realizes he had a real opportunity. One of the major problem’s with Besson’s films are how simplistic he gets when it comes to human emotions. In Léon, he tries hard to talk about emotions as much as possible. But it’s just talk.

Portman’s performance is excellent–so excellent she gave nearly identical performances a couple more times (Beautiful Girls and Heat)–but it should have been clear she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Besson’s characters in Léon are some of his most shallow–quite an achievement since shallowly conceived characters are a Besson staple–but at least Reno and Oldman are somewhat supposed to be ciphers. Portman’s character isn’t, but all the exposition is ludicrous.

Léon‘s a really boring film without much value. But it is competently produced.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Luc Besson; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Sylvie Landra; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Dan Weil; produced by Patrice Ledoux; released by Gaumont.

Starring Jean Reno (Léon), Gary Oldman (Stansfield), Natalie Portman (Mathilda), Danny Aiello (Tony), Peter Appel (Malky), Willi One Blood (1st Stansfield man), Don Creech (2nd Stansfield man), Keith A. Glascoe (3rd Stansfield man), Randolph Scott (4th Stansfield man), Michael Badalucco (Mathilda’s Father), Ellen Greene (Mathilda’s Mother), Elizabeth Regen (Mathilda’s Sister), Carl J. Matusovich (Mathilda’s Brother) and Frank Senger (Fatman).


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From Paris with Love (2010, Pierre Morel)

So, coming off their collaborative success of Taken, Morel and producer Luc Besson decide to… make a John Travolta star vehicle? It’s about ten years too late and probably something someone should have made before Battlefield: Earth. I mean, the endless Pulp Fiction references and the awful attempts at Tarantino-esque dialogue. It’s frequently painful.

In fact, the only amusing thing might be seeing the stuntman standing in for Travolta (whose got to be the biggest secret agent in a while), but the editing doesn’t even allow that small pleasure.

From Paris with Love has to be Besson’s biggest failure (at least as a producer of simple action pictures). He didn’t write the script, which is apparently a big mistake, since Paris is all over the place. It tries to use buzz words–terrorist–to get a lot of effect and it’s pretty lame throughout. There’s a compelling train wreck factor to it, however.

Travolta’s a little more restrained in one of the more miscast roles I can remember (it’s clearly a role for someone like Jean Reno) and he’s so wrong for the role, one feels sympathy. Jonathan Rhys Meyers–playing an American with a questionable accent–is awful. I kept waiting for Travolta’s brash, rude secret agent to make a comment about Rhys Meyers’s silly mustache.

Morel’s direction is weak, a bland action movie style. It’d probably be impossible to shoot this script well.

Kasia Smutniak and Richard Durden probably give the only two acceptable performances.

It’s lousy.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Pierre Morel; screenplay by Adi Hasak, based on a story by Luc Besson; director of photography, Michel Abramowicz; edited by Frédéric Thoraval; music by David Buckley; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, India Osborne and Virginie Silla; released by EuropaCorp.

Starring John Travolta (Charlie Wax), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (James Reece), Kasia Smutniak (Caroline), Richard Durden (Ambassador Bennington), Yin Bing (M. Wong), Amber Rose Revah (Nichole), Eric Godon (Foreign Minister) and François Bredon (The Thug).


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