‘ANNA’ is written and directed by French filmmaker Luc Besson, best known for such action hits as “La Femme Nikita” (later made into a TV series), “Leon, The Professional” and “Lucy”. He is also the producer of the Liam Neeson hit, “Taken”, the Zoe Saldana actioner “Colombiana” and he wrote the Jason Statham hit, “The Transporter”.
“Anna” is told in a nonlinear manner, jumping back and forth in time that may confuse some viewers. Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) is a beautiful vendor of the unique nesting dolls in a Russian street market who is recruited to be a fashion model in Paris. She quickly rises to the top but it turns out she’s actually a deadly undercover agent of the KGB. She makes a wealthy Russian businessman fall in love with her but he turns out to be an illegal arms dealer and Anna is assigned to put a bullet into his head.
A flashback shows she’s the battered girlfriend of an abusive and drug-addicted small time criminal. Her life is turned upside down when she is recruited by a KGB officer, Alex (Luke Evans), and is trained to be a KGB assassin. Her immediate boss is Olga (Helen Mirren, who seems to be having fun sporting a Russian accent). She’ll be working with them for five years then she’s free to do what she wants.
But the head of the KGB, Vassiliev (Eric Godon) does not want to honor this agreement and even says the only way to get out of serving the KGB is by death. During a mission to kill someone, Anna is recruited by a wily CIA agent, Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy). Anna gets an attractive offer and so she becomes a double agent assigned to kill Vassiliev.
In return, she can later safely retire and be given her freedom to live in Hawaii with her lesbian lover, Maud (Lera Abova.) Anna gets to accomplish this task, but it turns out there are more twists in the story that makes her not just a double but a triple crossing agent.
The first thing you’d notice as you watch the movie is that “Anna” feels like a rehash of Besson’s past hits both as director and producer. This is so bad since he just came from another big flop, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, a futuristic sci-fi nonsense. So he goes back to doing action in “Anna” and it surely feels like a misfired hack work.
He just tries to change the structure with its fragmented time frames where shocking revelations are made then the story rewinds to explain the back story behind the new plot development. This can be so distracting and the trick doesn’t really work and is just more of a cheap gimmick to pull the wool over our eyes so we won’t recognize right away that it’s really all predictable.
In the process, Anna gets to ruthlessly kill so many people and you can see that the movie is trying to project her as a female John Wick, but the whole thing is not just that credible. This is notable in that badly choreographed restaurant scene where Anna ends up using broken plates as lethal weapons, that montage showing her doing her modeling gigs while going a killing spree, and the climax where she kills the KGB head and kills hundreds of people on her way out that is reminiscent of a similar sequence in “John Wick 3”.
“John Wick” has become a franchise but we doubt that “Anna” would have any kind of sequel since it’s a big flop at the U.S. box office. Sasha Luss is a real life Russian supermodel who first appeared in the role of a princess in Besson’s “Valerian”. She fits the role of a model in “Anna” perfectly, but other than looking gorgeous, she doesn’t have the energy or star presence to make her role that interesting. We’d take Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” or Jennifer Lawrence in “Red Sparrow” any time.