Total Recall: Best Luc Besson Productions
With Lockout hitting theaters, we count down the best movies produced (but not directed) by the prolific French filmmaker.
A CG-animated, 3D feast for the senses, A Monster in Paris blends together elements of King Kong and The Hunchback of Notre Dame to tell the tale of an inventor, a shy projectionist, the nightclub singer he loves, and the opera-singing proboscis monkey who changes their lives forever. Though it failed to recoup its budget during its theatrical run, Monster boasted a talented voice cast (including Vanessa Paradis, Danny Huston, and Sean Lennon) and earned the approval of critics like Graham Young of the Birmingham Mail, who wrote, "From its curiously light opening to its emotive climax, the best thing about this animation is that it gets better and better as you grow into its own little world."
4. District B13
Besson did double time as co-producer and co-screenwriter on District B13, helping shepherd this parkour-driven thriller about a fenced-in French ghetto filled to its barbed wire turrets with gangsters, druglords, and arms dealers. Fast-paced and flush with wild stunts that were filmed by first-time director Pierre Morel without the aid of wires or CGI, District B13 did well enough at the box office to inspire a sequel -- and impressed critics like Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star, who gasped, "Morel lathers up a thunderous tornado of exhilarating destruction. There's hardly a moment to pause for breath, blink or wipe the sweat off your brow."
Tommy Lee Jones made his directorial debut -- as well as being nominated for the Golden Palm and winning Best Actor at Cannes -- with this Texas-set drama about an obstinate rancher (Jones) who kidnaps a Border Patrol agent (Barry Pepper) after the latter overreacts to a misunderstanding and murders a Mexican immigrant. The duo undertakes a slow journey by horseback, rotting corpse in tow, colorful characters and rattlesnakes all around, redemption far off on the horizon. It isn't exactly cheerful stuff, but as Rick Groen of the Globe and Mail noted, "This isn't a film that demands to be enjoyed in order to be remembered -- one way or the other, it will stick with you."
2. Tell No One
A French box office hit and worldwide critical favorite, Tell No One (or Ne le dis à personne) offered a pleasantly twisty adaptation of Harlan Coben's bestselling thriller about a doctor who goes from grieving over his dead wife to figuring out that she might be alive -- and finding himself implicated in a double murder. "It attempts no improvements on the basic suspense formula," conceded Reyhan Harmanci of the San Francisco Chronicle, hastening to add, "It just does everything really well: perfect pacing, lovely camera work, spot-on acting and an ingenious plot."
1. The Singer
When you think about Luc Besson, musical romances probably aren't the first thing that comes to mind -- but if there's one thing this week's list has taught us, it's that the man knows a good script when he sees one, and The Singer (a.k.a. Quand j'étais chanteur) offers César Award-winning proof. Starring Gérard Depardieu, Mathieu Amalric, and Cécile de France -- as well as an appearance from French musical legend Christophe -- it earned praise from critics like Geoff Andrew of Time Out, who applauded it as "An admirably tough, ambivalent and honest look at the fraught relationship between real feelings and the culturally acceptable (or otherwise) public expression of similar emotions as manipulative entertainment."
In case you were wondering, here are Besson's top 10 productions according RT users' scores:
1. Tell No One -- 86%
2. Taken -- 83%
3. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada -- 79%
4. The Transporter -- 78%
5. Unleashed -- 76%
6. District B13 -- 72%
7. Kiss of the Dragon -- 70%
8. Transporter 2 -- 68%
9. High Tension -- 68%
10. Hitman -- 61%
Finally, here's the trailer for The Lady, Besson's other new movie: