Cast: Sasha Luss, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy
Director: Luc Besson
At this point, I’m just really over Luc Besson. Long gone are the days of Leon: The Professional and they’ve been replaced by either generic action movies like Lucy or uninspiring adaptations like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Somehow, Besson was able to combine the worst elements of these movies into Anna, a generic, poorly-written, poorly shot, poorly-acted sorry excuse of an action movie. I don’t how Mirren keeps ending up in these duds after her underwhelming 2018, but it seems that the trend has continued for her in 2019. A movie made up of almost every wrong filmmaking decision you can make, Anna establishes itself as a contender for worst movie of the year and hopefully serves as a wakeup call for Besson to get it together.
The film follows Anna Poliatova (Luss), a young abused girl who is turned into Soviet spy for the KGB and has gone undercover in Paris as a model. During her missions, she interacts with American intelligence officials who try to get her to flip on her country. Whatever decision she makes will leave people betrayed and a trail of blood behind her. From a fundamental standpoint, almost every single element fails in spectacular fashion in a way that very few films do. Starting with the acting, Luss is in way over her head and is not ready to be the lead actress of a major film. Anna has been through some truly traumatic events that should give an actress plenty of material to work with, but we end up with a bland and uninspired performance by Luss. For a character that has so many interesting options at her disposal, the fact that we end up with a feeling of apathy towards her journey is a testament to both the poor writing as well as a performance that should’ve been given by someone else. Speaking of the writing, the story presents itself like the first draft of a Tarantino script without the actual proofreading or thought put into it. Tarantino films are interesting because even if they jump around, the characters are interesting and the scenes make sense in the limited context we have of them. In Anna things happen out of nowhere and then we get scenes explaining how these moments were planned in advance to help relieve our confusion. These leads to a lot of, “wait, what just happened?” moments of the film that gets old quick. If this happens once or twice that’s acceptable as a kind of suspenseful moment, but when your movie relies on this technique then it’s just lazy writing. Finally, the action sequences are some of the laziest and most poorly designed fights of the year. It’s a classic case of quick cuts and Anna doing these near impossible takedowns. I know there’s a certain level of suspension of disbelief required to watch these movies, but since we’re never shown Anna proving these skills or training, we just have to take it face value that she’s a killing machine and not just a disgruntled runway model. The worst offense of the poor editing is in one of the final fight scenes, we see the screen close up on characters before cutting between the others in the fight to build suspense. It looked like something out of a Steven Seagal movie and absolute removed any tension from the film. I don’t often see a movie that just fails to accomplish everything it sets out to do like Anna, but at least it gives me something to laugh about after the fact.
Overall, while some people may trash Anna because of Besson’s multiple rape allegations, but I’ll trash Anna because it sucks. I don’t know why Mirren decided to work on this movie after reading the script, but without her this may have been one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how you can make a Cold War spy movie boring, but Besson found a way and goes out of his to disappoint us. He’s much more talented than this movie, so I really have no idea how he managed to fail so spectacularly with his newest project. Anna really is about the most generic action movie ever made and Summit really missed the mark distributing this one.
Overall Score: 1.5/10