3 Days To Kill opened a couple of weeks ago to universal derision, it surprisingly isn’t that bad. With a script by Luc Besson and a plot featuring an aging CIA hit-man, comparisons with Taken are unavoidable. Kevin Costner does a good job with a flimsy and derivative story that loses its way in the middle. The action scenes and the family bonding both work on their own merits but the film fails to join the two elements together into a coherent movie. Not as nasty as Taken but also not as focused, it is worth seeing for any fans of either Costner or Besson, but we should expect so much more from Luc Besson.
Both as a director and writer/producer Besson has been responsible for some great films. Subway (1985) was the beginning of the style over substance tag (known as Cinéma du look movement ) that has followed Besson for his entire career, but with this much style how much substance do you need? Five years later came the film that introduced me to non English language cinema: Nikita (1990), I rented the VHS when I was 15 years old (I know it is an 18 and I was 15, but the video shop man didn’t notice or care!) about a year after its cinema release, I was drawn to the movie mainly because I liked the cover. Often criticised for lack of originality, Nikita has surely influenced more movies than it was influenced by. Anne Parillaud’s reluctant government assassin has spawned a Hollywood remake, two TV shows and countless imitators. Léon(aka The Professional) (1994) is widely regarded as Besson’s best film thanks to the just over-the-top enough turn by Gary Oldman and the sensational feature debut of 12-year-old Natalie Portman. It is also notable as Besson’s first film in English. Again in English, this time with an even less restrained Gary Oldman, The Fifth Element (1997) saw a new direction for Besson, a big budget Sci-Fi adventure. it has its problems but on the whole is a fun with some interesting ideas. Better know as a writer and producer in recent years, he is still able suprise as a director as he did with the bizarre but brilliant Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010). Sadly less well know, possibly because they are in French, I would recommend both movies to anyone who hasn’t seen them.
Probably the best know of his writer/producer movies is The Transporter (200, 2005, 2008), starring Jason Statham, they are exactly what you expect from Besson and Statham, slick, glossy, well made, dumb action. Also falling into that category but with more comedy is Taxi (1998) and its three sequels (2000, 2003, 2007). Also notable for early appearances from Marion Cotillard nearly a decade before La Vie en rose. I wouldn’t bother with parts 3 and four or the American remake (2004) but the first two films are great. There were three films released in the UK in 2006 to feature parkour: Breaking and Entering (2006), Casino Royale (2006) and District 13 (2004) (original title Banlieue 13, also known as District B 13). Only District 13 stars parkour founder David Belle. Belle and writer/producer returned for a sequel District 13: Ultimatum (2009) and Brick Mansions (2014), neither were as good as the exciting and innovative original film. Lockout (2012) is a B Sci-Fi starring Guy Pearce and go-to kidnap victim Maggie Grace. The story is derivative and the effects terrible, but the film itself is tremendous fun and really Enjoyable.
Working across multiple genres, Besson also wrote, produced and directed the Arthur and the Invisibles movies (2006, 2009, 2010), and the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady (2011). I haven’t seen any of these films so can’t comment on them other than to say they were not well received critically. Returning to the director’s chair for his next film Lucy, set for release in August (in UK). Starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role it looks from the trailer like a riff on the ideas of Limitless. A return to large budget Sci-Fi and yet another film to feature a strong female lead, I am looking forward to it.
All this producing isn’t an act of randomly placing his name on movies to help distribute them, in 1999 he founded the Paris based EuropaCorp, one of the few independent studios that both produces and distributes movies. As well as the films Besson has creative infuemce over, he has also produced Nil by Mouth (1997), directed by Gary Oldman; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy Lee Jones (2005) (and Tommy Lee Jones’ upcoming The Homesman) and Tell No One (2006), by Guillaume Canet. Three fantastic films that may not have been made if not for Besson and EuropaCorp. While I respect what Besson is doing with EuropaCorp, I would just like to see a few more great films directed by him and a few less mediocre ones written and, or produced by him.