- Matthew Turner
- 6 July 2019
Luc Besson returns to familiar territory with a forgettable action thriller, featuring Helen Mirren and Luke Evans
French writer-director Luc Besson treads some very familiar ground with this female assassin actioner that's cut from the same cloth as one of his career highpoints, 1990's Nikita. The old hand delivers the goods in the thrills and spills department, but there's an underlying emptiness that makes his latest entirely forgettable.
Russian model-turned-actress Sasha Luss (who had a brief part as an alien in Besson's previous picture Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) stars as trinket hawker Anna Poliatova, who's plucked from the streets of Moscow in 1990 and thrust into a career as a model in Paris. When she unexpectedly kills her arms dealer boyfriend, the film flashes back to reveal that – aha! – she's actually been working for the KGB all along, reporting to recruiting agent Alex (Luke Evans) and haughty apparatchik Olga (a heavily accented Helen Mirren, clearly enjoying herself). Then she meets American spy Lenny (Cillian Murphy), who forces her to turn double agent.
The film's central gimmick is to continually replay that narrative trick, whipping the rug from under us by winding back a few months to reveal what Anna's really up to. There's a nice parallel in the script when Anna talks about Russian nesting dolls and it just about works on that level. The problem is that the characters are so thinly drawn that it's nigh on impossible to care whether Anna is working for the Americans, the Russians or simply doing her own thing.
While Luss's lithe athleticism enables her to pull off the exciting action (to be fair, such sequences are the film's key selling point), her line-delivery frequently comes up short, sounding at best flat and at worst mumbly and unintelligible. Moreover, even though the script requires her to have love affairs with both leading men, there's little evident chemistry between her and either Evans or Murphy – at one point, she's face-to-face with Murphy in a cupboard and the scene is so devoid of heat it's actually embarrassing to watch.
If Besson's flair for a spot of stylishly-clad ass-kicking ensures Anna remains watchable, there's nothing here you haven't seen before; the lack of wit and emotion, meanwhile, means it's never as much fun as it should have been.
General release from Fri 5 Jul.