Director Luc Besson could get really mad at how the new movie Anna rips off so many elements from his film Nikita — except he's the thief. Writing and directing Anna, he leans heavily on his 1990 movie about a hot young woman recruited as an assassin. Also known as La Femme Nikita, the older project felt fresh as it transformed and empowered a woman into a James Bond scenario, capable of handling killers and spies with elegant, lethal aplomb.
The title character Anna follows the same path, but thirty years lessen the novelty. Anna — played by fashion model Sasha Luss — follows a tradition Besson helped create. Gorgeous in the extreme, she also shoots, slashes, hits, and kicks with the speed and precision of an Atomic Blonde or other comic book character. Besson follows the pattern he helped create by combining fast-cut editing with super choreographed kicks, pushes, jumps and moves suited to dancing as well as killing.
Recent hits like the John Wick franchise owe a big debt to Besson and his style, turning assassination into a game where the biggest challenge comes from keeping track of the body count. Besson ups the ante by hiring a striking looking cast to engage in all that killing. Luss and co-star Cillian Murphy seem ripe for a contest pitting one set of high cheekbones against another, with definitive features that the camera loves. And as he did in Nikita by casting the experienced acting pro Jeanne Moreau as a trainer of spies, he brings in another expert for Anna — Helen Mirren. Mirren happily works towards stealing the show, ladling out a Russian accent with a small smile and raising her eyebrows with full understanding of the movie's purpose and design.
As for its plot — aside from girl gets gun and kills lots of people — events jump back and forth in time, often repeating themselves in a story telling method that once seemed novel but now turns up in many other films. So, while director's approach and visuals remain energetic, his ideas now qualify as tired.
This review was originally aired on 6/27/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/anna#stream/0