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  Anna Bloody Barbie Girl
Year: 2019
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Lera Abova, Alexander Petrov, Nikita Pavlenko, Anna Krippa, Aleksey Maslodudov, Eric Godon, Ivan Franek, Jean-Baptiste Peuch, Adrian Can, Alison Wheeler, Andrew Howard, Louise Parker, Sasha Beliaeva
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: About five years ago in Moscow of the nineteen-eighties, an alert went out too late to the spies working there that the KGB were onto them and were about to pick them up; only one got away, while the others were arrested or committed suicide. In 1990, Anna (Sasha Luss) was working on a fruit and vegetable market stall when she was invited to leave this life in Russia behind and become a model with an agency, working around the world on various assignments and seeing the sights - well, how could she refuse? But this was no ordinary modelling vocation, as while it is a tough profession, so is being an assassin, which was the alternative position she was trained for...

Anna was a fateful entry in cinematic multi-hyphenate Luc Besson's career, as it limped in and out of theatrical engagements with little to no publicity thanks to a collection of unpleasant allegations about his sexual misconduct in the past. Though it was decided by the courts that there was not enough evidence to prosecute, it harmed his reputation, even in France which famously was not as enamoured of bringing abuses of sexual power to book as many in the rest of the Western world. Which was all very well, but the fact remained, had Besson's reputation been wholly unblemished, it did not change the quality of this, which looked very much like a man running out of new ideas.

Therefore he was reduced to recycling, which is fine if you're in the refuse business, but he really should have been setting his sights a little higher than reheating plot points of his earlier hit Nikita, also a tale of an attractive female spy who tries to escape her life of crime after the pressure of the job gets too much to bear. Fair enough, Besson had been marking time with samey action thrillers for some years now, but they were always simply produced by him, usually with a co-writing or story credit, itself a bone of contention thanks to allegations he stole other authors' ideas and passed them off as his own. But Anna simply looked like one of those, rather than his more imaginative efforts.

Every so often we watched a scene unfold that reminded us of Besson's talent, but they were few and far between as the narrative followed in the footsteps of Atomic Blonde and Red Sparrow without eclipsing what were by no means universally liked movies. It was Cold War espionage time again, yet the timescale was all off, and not only because Besson ignored the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - famous events occurred at the end of the eighties this blithely chose to forget, making it look pretty out of touch. As if that were not enough, the anachronisms were in your face throughout, which would have been just about acceptable had they been crafting a science fictional, James Bond gadget infused spy thriller, but there were no signs that was what they had in mind, merely they were largely clueless.

Either that or arrogant in assuming that a younger target audience would neither know nor care that nobody had a mobile phone smaller than a housebrick in the late eighties, or that the internet did not include streaming video over WiFi, among other irksome clangers. It would have been nice to see some alternate world arrangement in a Euro-spy excursion, harking back to the first rash of Bond-inspired items, but that was not what you had here as the decidedly uncharismatic Luss manoeuvred her way through three main players: KGB's Luke Evans and Helen Mirren, and CIA's Cillian Murphy. However, the film was just as concerned with dressing up its leading lady as a model, leaving the impression that Besson was using her as his personal Spy Barbie instead of someone more convincing than a living doll. It was also half an hour too long, as there was a snappy little espionage actioner in here struggling to escape from its two hours running time. Had Besson not been #metoo'ed he could have theoretically bounced back from this letdown, but as it was it did him no favours. Music by Eric Serra.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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