The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
[originally posted 7Mar2001]
Besson, the man behind the highly disturbing film Leon, tends to get a lot of credit for it. Deservedly so, but it pays to remember that Besson was not the only architect of Leon‘s genius; how much did Besson have to do with it in relation to Reno, Portman, and especially Oldman? Take two of the pieces of the equation away, and the answer appears relatively plain: what made Leon great was the chemistry between Reno and Portman, and the disturbance to be found therein. In The Fifth Element, Besson gives us your basic guilt-free action film; lots of things blow up, the hero cracks wise, his sidekick makes us laugh, etc. etc. etc.
Not to say there’s nothing at all to like about this film. It was made back in the day when both Chris Tucker and Bruce Willis were both underrated actors, and people in America knew Gary Oldman as “that guy who played Dracula,” so most moviegoers ignored it. And to be fair, Willis doesn’t give a Sixth Sense-caliber performance, Tucker doesn’t give a Dead Presidents-caliber performance, and Oldman—well, Oldman, as good as he is, may never again give another Leon-caliber performance. But all three could act better asleep than much of what’s onscreen these days. Toss in a dash of Ian Holm, a few shakes of Milla Jovovich (who, you’ll be happy to know, has very few actual lines here; her job is to stand around in very little clothing and look good), a cameo from Tricky, and a good turn from the also-highly-underrated Brion James, and you’ve got two hours of relatively solid eye candy. The script is serviceable if forgettable, as is the plot. Mediocrity can be played well with good actors, and that’s the case here.
(Oh, and the blue chick is/was Besson’s girlfriend. Just thought you’d like to know.) ** ½