See It Instead: 3 Days to Kill
Sometimes a movie comes along and makes you aware of an itch you never knew you had. Perhaps a review piqued your interest, or you’d rather stay in and pay yourself $10 for a small popcorn and watch a movie on the cheap. Perhaps you’re valiantly struggling through your queue on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and need a wise, cultured voice to direct you to where the real movie viewing gold is hiding amidst the terrible Leprechaun movies . Well, look no further. See It Instead is here to take today’s new releases and guide you to what you should really be watching.
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Terminally diagnosed with a case of aging Kevin Costner, 3 Days to Kill is Luc Besson‘s latest insightful look into the hard times and daily grind of being a professional killer. From assassins, to organized crime enforcers, to ex-spooks out for vengeance, Besson has got you covered if you’re looking to get into the business of making people very very dead. I’m not making any accusations, but if France has any unsolved mass murders, perhaps they should look into how Luc spends his weekends…
Speaking of how one spends their weekends, why not cuddle up with these three films about cool customers who keep the boys at the morgue busy.
The Serious Pick: Leon: The Professional (1994)
Leon is the story of two hapless individuals thrown together by violence: Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a young girl struggling to make the best of a family with a neglectful mother, criminal father, and adoring younger brother; Leon (Jean Reno), a simple (and simple minded) yet affable loner, who makes his living as a contract killer- a cleaner, as he puts it. Both share a squalid tenement building that becomes a slaughter house, thanks to Detective Stansfield (Gary Oldman) a crooked cop who wipes out Mathilda’s family, attempting to shake down her father. Mathilda barely escapes by pretending to be Leon’s daughter. The two form an unlikely bond, with genuine but awkward affection. Leon’s skills as a remorseless killer are put to the test as Stansfield continues to search for the missing daughter of the family he murdered.
Perhaps Besson’s finest film in the assassin genre (though you could make arguments for the excellent La Femme Nikita, also featuring Reno), Leon: the Professional, is a tight, suspenseful ride, featuring iconic performances from all three leads, which culminates in some of the finest mayhem ever filmed. Michael Bay must wake in cold sweats about the absolute beauty of Besson’s explosions, in comparison to his own tawdry work. This movie deserves to be seen by everyone.
The Lighthearted Pick: Wasabi (2001)
If Leon is Besson’s Arc De Triomphe, then Wasabi is his silly little stand selling crepes underneath it. This does not lessen the fun to be had with Wasabi…it’s just to let you know that you should be expecting a completely different animal here. Wasabi is almost a mash up of his farcical comedies (such as the Taxi series), and his steely tough, loner-out-for-justice films (such as The Transporter series.)
Featuring Jean Reno, again, Wasabi tells the story of a gruff French police officer, who runs afoul of his superiors for preferring to subdue criminals with his earth shattering left cross instead of handcuffs. Suspended from the force, Reno travels to Japan, where he had previously been posted 20 years ago, in order to settle a surprise estate left to him by a former lover. He learns that he is to act as guardian for a young girl whom he realizes to be his daughter from the affair, until her 20th birthday, just 2 days hence. Reno conceals the truth from the girl, and settles in for a short vacation in Japan. Things fall apart quickly. The girl’s mother was stealing from the Yakuza, hence her strange request to have Reno guard the child in the event of her death. Reno sets out to discover the killers, and ends up putting his devastating fisticuffmanship to the test, tearing apart the Japanese underworld and developing a curious addiction to eating wasabi. Hence the title. It’s a bit thin, I know.
This film was widely panned, but is pretty classic Reno. If you develop a hankering for watching a hawk-nosed Frenchman punch the ever living tar out of bad guys, Wasabi will deliver an enjoyable evening.
The Unconventional Pick: Le Dernier Combat: The Last Battle (1983)
You’re going to have to either get lucky online, or pay for an actual DVD to acquire this fine film (I know, watching a movie from a disc in this day and age…do computers even still come with disc drives?) This is Besson’s first feature film, and Jean Reno’s first starring role, and the two manage to get the chemistry right on the first try. Shot in all black and white, and featuring scarcely any dialogue (at least rendering the need to find a translated version unnecessary), this minimalist take on the end of the world is both novel and familiar. Besson would revisit many of the social criticisms found in Le Dernier Combat in other films, notably the District 13 series.
Set in the aftermath of an untold tragedy, we follow the wanderings of a man, brilliantly named “The Man”… as he attempts to eek out a life in a world where a disagreement with your neighbor ends in armed combat with improvised swords, lances, and various other implements with at least one sharp end. Unfortunately, one of his neighbors is “The Brute”, played by Jean Reno, who relentlessly dogs “The Man” throughout his travels, right up to a climactic, gladiator style finish.
Le Dernier Combat lacks polish, and can become a little vague due to its minimal use of dialogue, but it rewards the viewers patience by creating, silently, an intriguing world. Somewhere between Mad Max and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, this film is rightly regarded as a cult phenomena by lovers of Besson, Reno, or the apocalyptic genre.