A futuristic script brings out the Blade Runner in directors. Luc Besson adds two essential ingredients: Jean-Paul Gaultier and a sense of humour.

Bruce Willis is Korben Dallas, a New York cabbie in the year 2214, battling the forces of Zorg (Gary Oldman) and a breed of shape-changers, whose heads resemble the mutt that chases Tom & Jerry, so that an excitable priest (Ian Holm) can solve the mystery of four Egyptian stones and save the world.

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It's a tall order, but where would sci-fi be without a juicy challenge? Besson's idea has a wealth of possibility, from the perfectly formed angelic being (Milla Jovovich), seeing the point of Korben's off-the-cuff cynicism, to a black transvestite show host (Chris Tucker), losing his camp in the crossfire of a gun battle on a holiday spaceship. The characters have style and a healthy disregard for stereotype, while the originality is matched by Gaultier's exotic, witty and beautiful creations. Few filmmakers would have allowed a designer of his reputation carte blanche on a project of this magnitude. The producer is French. Quelle difference!

The plot's complexity is a ruse. It's an Earth extinction thing, behind a waffling professor's explanation of the four elements - earth, wind, fire and water - and a fifth - life - that, if brought together in as certain place, creates a force of energy, capable of defeating the power of darkness, expected to threaten the world 300 years after Great Britain declared war on Germany the first time.

Fast forward to Korben, struggling awake in his hen coop apartment, finding no food in the fridge, disappointing the cat, and crawling into his clapped out yellow cab to take to the air lanes - 23rd century traffic jams are like three dimential noughts and crosses - only to have a perfect being, dressed in bandages, fall through his roof. She speaks gibberish, has sunset coloured hair and punches above her weight.

This is the beginning of a dangerous mission. Somewhere in Meglo Towers, Zorg, a bizarre weasel of a man with a dodgy Southern drawl and a severe case of control freakidge ("You're a monster, Zorg." "I know"), is plotting to steal the stones and welcome the Dark Power, while the priest, who understands the importance of the girl in Korben's cab and the relevance of the five elements, is aiming to stop him.

Why is the diva with the blue tentacles vital to them both? Keep holding your breath. Willis is so in touch with his Die Hard alter ego, he can squeeze humour from the twitch of an eyebrow. Holm is hilarious and acts with his usual conviction, despite being surrounded by Star Wars extras. Oldman completely overdoes it and basks in every cruel minute. Jovovich plays hard to get, beats up a gang of dogheads, flashes a dazzling smile and you KNOW she's perfect.

The film is ludicrous and wonderful. It has genuine eccentric conviction.

Vive le Besson!

Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2003
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A futuristic cabbie battles to save the world.
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Director: Luc Besson

Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry, John Neville, Mathieu Kassovitz, Julie T Wallace

Year: 1997

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France

Festivals:

BIFF 2017

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