Sasha Luss as 'Anna'. Photo credit: Shanna Besson

Can Luc Besson Get Back on Track With ‘Anna’?

Luc Besson has drafted supermodel Sasha Luss to star as an international assassin in ‘Anna,’ hitting theaters on Friday.

On Friday, action icon Luc Besson will release Anna, the latest in his growing line of no-holds-barred action movies starring unflappable European killer types. The formula plays right into Besson’s wheelhouse; it should be a certified hit. Thanks to an untested star and a bit of bad press, however, there’s a lot riding on this under-the-radar action film.

After the crushing critical and box office shellacking of Besson’s $200 million sci-fi romp Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the French director is in dire need of a stateside smash.

One quick digression: For the record, Valerian really isn’t half bad. It’s just, as Luc Besson put it, “European.” In spite of the general oversight the film received in the US, Besson’s sci-fi epic made its money back on international ticket sales.

Enter Anna … okay, well, Anna tried to enter, but it was subsequently derailed when nine women came forward to accuse Besson of inappropriate behavior. A nine-month police investigation into one case was ultimately dismissed because no evidence surfaced to support the claim; even so, the one-two punch of a box office bomb and a slew of sexual assault allegations threatened to derail Besson’s career completely. 

Okay, so, for real now: enter Anna, a $30 million bare-knuckle action movie about a supermodel-turned-assassin starring supermodel-turned-actor Sasha Luss. Like so many other Besson films, the premise sounds hokey on paper, sure, but Besson has a long track record of making unusual plots work.

The domestic trailer for Anna is undeniably intriguing.

It seems as though Anna put most of its $30 million budget in the right place — fight choreography and hiring Helen Mirren. What’s more, international assassin movies have never failed Besson in the past (see: The Professional, The Transporter, or Taken for proof).

Even better, Luss looks like a natural in a fist fight, and her stone cold demeanor in an interrogation room seems a strong fit for Anna’s character. It doesn’t hurt that Luss herself seems like a perfectly charming person in real life. For example, she’s given to using her social media popularity to focus more on cute, cuddly things than on her runway appearances.

As to the allegations facing Besson, Luss told Vulture that she’d known Besson and his wife (who is often on set as a producer) for several years and had never seen anything other than gentlemanly behavior from the director.

All that said, Anna remains a gamble for Luc Besson. As gleefully European as his films may be, the LA-based director still needs to thrill US audiences if he wants to continue getting the kind of budgets and distribution he employs for his grander, weirder films. I mean, I know I want there to be a Fifth Element 2 … 

We’ll see if Anna can live up to Luc Besson’s killer-for-hire canon when the movie hits theaters this Friday, June 21.

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