Tag Archives: Luc Besson

The Spirit Of Snake Plissken Lives In Lockout!

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Lockout is to Escape From New York what Battle Beyond The Stars was to The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai – a low-budget romp that transplants one’s setting [Battle Beyond The Star to space from the old west or ancient Japan; Lockout to space from a post-apocalyptic New York that’s been turned into a gigantic prison].. The plot remains the same, but the setting and the characters’ names have changed. The result is fast-paced, violent entertainment that’s enhanced by witty dialogue and just enough unexpected variations on time worn themes to keep the audience guessing.

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Colombiana Delivers!

Zoe Saldana as "Cataleya" in Columbia Pictures' COLOMBIANA.

Remember the opening chase sequence from Casino Royale? Replace James bond with a half-dozen thugs and Bond’s prey with a nine-year old girl and you have a pretty good idea of the intensity level at which Colombiana begins. The Olivier Megaton-directed Luc Besson production maintains that intensity for almost two hours.

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MOVIES: Sleek, Stylish and Slightly Skeevey, Taken Delivers The Goods!

A retired spy’s daughter is kidnapped to be sold as a sex slave [the slightly skeevey part]. The ex-spy hunts the men who kidnapped her. As premises go, this one is simple, direct and a bit odd to find in a PG-13 film – but we are talking about a Luc Besson production, so maybe it’s not really a surprise.

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What is a surprise is that Taken, co-written by Besson [Leon, The Professional and The Fifth Element] and Robert Mark Kamen [The Karate Kid, The Transporter], and directed by Pierre Morel [District B13], is better than the premise suggests. This mostly because it takes a bit of time to establish that our protagonist, Bryan Mills [Liam Neeson] has retired because he wants to reconnect with his daughter, Kim [Maggie Grace]. We believe him because we see how disappointed he is when her mother, Lenore [Famke Janssen] and step-father, Stuart [Xander Berkley] upstage him at her birthday party [he brings her an expensive karaoke machine, but Stuart gives her a horse].

When she and her mother persuade him to sign a waiver allowing Kim to go to Paris, his warnings of danger fall on deaf ears and – sure enough – she and her friend are kidnapped. Then comes the phone conversation we saw in the trailer – followed by Mills taking action. Although Neeson is not a small guy, he does a good job of making himself seem ordinary as he begins tracking down the kidnappers, but once he swings into action, he becomes a force of nature.

Morel keeps the action up front and his pacing builds as Mills works himself up the chain of command – starting with the spotter who set up Kim and her friend. The usual ingredients of a Besson production are here – fights, chases, explosions – but because we buy into Mills as a father, there is a little more gravity, a little more at stake than usual.

Taken is entertaining but, ultimately, reliant on one performance. If you buy Neeson as Mills, then you’ll enjoy the movie. If not, you won’t. I did.

Final Grade: B-

MOVIE REVIEW: Transporter 3: Taking Package X From Point A to Point B!

The basic premise of the Transporter movies is, as noted above, taking Package X from Point A to Point B. What makes the series fun is the obstacles that pop up every time we see Frank Martin [Jason Statham] take on a new gig. In Transporter 3, Frank is unwittingly involved into helping an eco-terrorist named Johnson [Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, going from scuzzy and greasy, to silky and sly] blackmail a member of The Ukraine’s government into signing a contract that would enable him to have toxic materials dumped there on a regular basis.

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How does he plan to do this? By kidnapping the minister’s daughter, Valentina [Natalya Rudakova]. How does keep the minister from finding her and thwarting his plan? Yup. By hiring Frank to take a package from just outside Marseilles to Budapest. Frank thinks the package is the bag in his trunk – but only for about as long as it takes to realize that she shares the same booby trap as him – a bracelet that will blow them up real good if they venture more than seventy-five feet from the car.

Director Olivier Megaton [there’s a good story behind the pseudonym – look it up online] brings a fresh zing to the franchise. His film has more of a staccato rhythm than its predecessors, and the bottom to the score literally rattles the theater. Cory Yuen returns to choreography the martial arts mayhem and gives us a look at why Frank’s wardrobe is so important to him.

Also as usual, stuff does blow up real good – just not Frank or Valentina. The special effects work is bigger and, and yet more delicately placed [in terms of timing], fuelling Megaton’s rhythms as much as Yuen’s fight sequences. Frank remains rather droll, looking more inconvenienced by his opponents than any danger – until he does finally catch up with Johnson, of course.

By limiting Frank to a set distance from his, Megaton and scriptwriters Luc Besson and Robert Kamen create a situation where Frank has to be even more creative in the way he handles problems – and it’s Statham’s wry presence that helps the audience to buy into the conceit. In Transporter 3, we get a purely fun flick to offset all the mawkish holiday movies and serious awards bait. It’s not brilliant, but better-than-average, propulsive fun has its place.

Final Grade: B-