by Greg Muskewitz
I just now got back from this muddled mess, and for now this is only my initial reaction, but I'm pretty sure it finalizes my final thoughts as I am currently writing about it.It's bad enough that this is the umpteenth version of the maitre'ds (or whatever she's called, obviously after all the other versions it STILL hasn't sunk in.) saga/tale/story/adventure, etc, and as with as much promise that stylistic director Luc Besson brings with it, "The Messenger" is simply horrible.
"Besson goes from 'Fifth Element' to 'Fifth Elementary'"
The movie takes forever to get started; within five minutes of the opening sequence, I felt drowze and *seriously* began to doze. The old lady who sat to the left of my date was snoring! Even more surprising, this had more walkouts from patrons, than the daily showing of "Happinness" I attended last year --and people HAD to pay for that!
Problems with the film start right away, with the titles they use to introduce the film. In its small Olde English-type font, it was hard enough to read, and considering myself a pretty quick reader, I found the titles to go by way too fast for myself to catch all over, let alone anyone who doesn't read as fast as I.
After I had shown up for the screening, I learned that it had a two and a half hour running time, and it felt long, very long, almost, but not quite as excruciatingly long as "Titanic," but definitely close within the range. Although there was a lot of filler time to be bored, there was a sense of engagement, mostly because of Milla Jovovich...but I'll get back to her later.
I missed who did the screenplay, whether it was Besson himself, or a collaboration with another, or a whole different person all together, but the storytelling was muddled, confounding, and totally unbalanced. Besson is a very talented director, between "La Femme Nikita" and one of my favorite films of '97, "The Fifth Element," and yes, his stylistic capabilities were evident here, they were consumed by the horrendousness of the rest. Besson helmed a project that he was not experienced enough for, his helming of such proved disasterous and amateurish. Everything felt so damned contrived, even the way they manipulated Jovovich's Joan into an often schitzofrenic and unlikable presence --which isn't to say that she wasn't good.
I like Jovovich, even in this, especially including the fact that you actually get to see her show off some (a lot) of acting skills. It was obvious she had a great physique and agility in "Element," but aside from some loopy dialogue on her part, she didn't have much to envelope there. She does here, but sometimes the filmmakers make her come across to psycho. ("I am the drum which God is beating on, beating and beating until it hurts my head," she screams pulling her hair and hitting herself like Annette Bening in "American Beauty.") I only hope she can come back with whatever upcoming projects she has lined up, and can show off in a good movie.
Dustin Hoffman is wasted, and surprisingly pretty bad himself. He was a screen nusance, un-needed, un-wanted, etc. Faye Dunaway was an intersted presence with her vericose vein popping prominently out of her forehead, half shaved like that of Divine in "Pink Flamingos," with her and her fellow whatevers looking like rejects from "Dune." There was a young actor who kinda reminded me of Skeet Ulrich, whom I didn't mind too much, but I was out of the theater before the credits ran so...And as for Malkovich, he was so much more interesting as himself in "Being..."
"The Messenger" was usually a nice film to look at; the cinematography was more than adequately used, but the film as a whole just completely makes you look over any good aspect it might have had. The production design was gorgeous, and composer Eric Serra scored a brilliant soundtrack of which I will most likely buy. It wouldn't surprise me if "The Messenger" is up for several technical awards, but nothing more, including Jovovich.I'm really mixed about a "star rating" to give it here, because although for my newspapers I know I'll give it * 1/2, I only go to 4, whereas Bitchslap uses up to 5. Technically, it was okay, and I didn't mind Jovovich so much, but this was purely awful.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1798&reviewer=172
originally posted: 11/10/99 19:51:43