Luc Besson’s wild and wacky sci-fi action film The Fifth Element is one of the most insane pieces of eye-candy ever devised, with a cartwheeling sense of manic energy, absolutely stunning production values, an overstuffed screenplay, and performances that range all over the map in terms of tone. I can vividly remember seeing this film with my parents on opening day during the summer of 1997, and being a massive fan of Leon, I was totally jacked to see it. And while I was fully entertained and most definitely overwhelmed by the film upon first viewing, over the years I’ve revisited this distinctive piece of work numerous times, and the film simply gets better and better. There’s also an extended male-on-female oral sex joke sequence that goes on for an extended period of time, and I truly don’t get how the MPAA let that one slide, but I love it regardless! This film has a brazen sense of its own self, and I love how Besson seemingly didn’t care about anything except for his exploding imagination and letting everything rip and fly. And the blending of CGI with practical and in-camera effects is rather stunning to observe all throughout.
Everyone was off their ass in this film, most especially Chris Tucker, who took a role that was originally conceived for Prince, and blasted his way off the screen as one of the most obnoxiously over the top characters ever to enter a film at more than the half-way point. Thierry Arbogast’s ridiculously stylish cinematography was in perfect synch with the gaudy costumes designed by Jean-Paul Gauthier and the eye-filling production handled by the brilliant Dan Weil. Besson and co-writer Robert Mark Kamen’s script is a hodgepodge of ideas and tropes that is both silly and serious in equal measure. The flying cars and futuristic cityscapes still dazzle, and positively pop in the Blu-ray format. Gary Oldman is off his ass in this film, and Bruce Willis did a reliably great job as the hunkered down bad-ass who has to spring into action and handle business. I’ve enjoyed most of Besson’s directorial offerings, and this one is near the top of the list for me. But I don’t think anything will ever unseat Leon as his crowning cinematic achievement, as that film really means something special, especially the international director’s cut.
Review by Nick Clement