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The Fifth Element

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Fifth Element

Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman
Director: Luc Besson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: May 1997
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, Cult


*Also starring: Luke Perry, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Lee Evans, Yolanda Garza, Nina Brosh



Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Most science fiction movies, good or bad, have a single look and set of characters that they use throughout the entire production. But not Luc Besson's THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Every five minutes, some totally new character or special effect is introduced. This makes for a highly involving and mesmerizing film. Although the film is incorrectly being marketed as the "STAR WARS for the 90s," it does have some of the imagination of the STAR WARS saga. Where it differs, is that THE FIFTH ELEMENT never takes itself very seriously.

The current trend among filmmakers is to engage in a battle with the studio's finance department with the filmmakers' goal being to spend the maximum amount possible on special effects. Whether the effects are worth the money becomes irrelevant; the effects become an end in themselves. THE FIFTH ELEMENT puts some sanity in this trend by spending every penny wisely, producing some of the most dazzling effects in a long time. If you are envisioning a depressing BLADE RUNNER motif for Besson's vision, think again. THE FIFTH ELEMENT is described in the press kit as showing a non-apocalyptic future, and Dan Weil's sets are suitably colorful and inviting.

Typical of the innovativeness is its rendering of traffic in a big city in the year 2259. Rather than heavy traffic on the one street level, the airborne cars operate on numerous but carefully controlled parallel logical surfaces. Keeping the ROGER RABBIT looking taxis in line, are police cars with the cops in Jean-Paul Gaultier's uniforms reminiscent of RoboCop.

Among all of the visual spectacles is a story and some excellent acting as well. Bruce Willis, who can be terrific but has been in so many dogs like COLOR OF NIGHT that I have begun to dread seeing his name on the marquee, plays the starring role of the taxi driver and ex-government agent Korben Dallas.

One day, a newly made woman with orange mop hair and some Band-Aid strips for clothing drops into Korben's cab, and I do mean drops. She speaks only a sing-song style of language that baffles Korben. ("I only speak two languages," he tells her, "English and bad English.") Her name is Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), and she has just been created from a strand of DNA from the remains of an alien spacecraft. In 48 hours a fireball of evil will consume the world unless she, being the perfect fifth element, and stones representing the other four are combined in some long lost temple.

The screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen has enough complexity to make following it somewhat of a challenge, but never so much as to lose the audience. Working through it becomes an interesting diversion, but all eyes stay glued to the screen to see what will happen next. THE FIFTH ELEMENT is more a feast for the eyes than the mind.

The film is filled with cartoonish shoot-'em-up violence, Willis, as one of many shooters, plays a much more lovable character than he does in the DIE HARD series. His enjoyment of his character transfers easily to the audience. The chemistry between Korben and his sidekick Leeloo pulsates with comedic and romantic energy.

Beautiful Jovovich speaks with a Yoda-like, sparse syntax. ("Me fifth element," she reassures Korben. "Supreme being. Me protect you.") With her quirky mannerisms and speech, Jovovich steals most of her scenes.

Gary Oldman plays Zorg, the leader of the bad guys on planet earth. His has a deal in progress with the thing about to destroy the planet. Oldman plays his part as total camp. With a heavy southern accent, he spouts one aphorism after another, including the classic, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

The funniest character in the entire movie is the black transvestite and talk show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker). Ruby Rhod with his leopard skinned dress, his cylindrical hairdo, and non-stop mouth provides a perfect complement to the fast paced action.

All of the details, right down to the barbecuing of the ugly little parasites on the spacecraft before the flight, are carefully orchestrated with maximum imagination. The press kit says that Besson first got the idea for the story when he was a teenager and has been developing it ever since. I believe it. The result overflows with energy and creativity.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT runs 2:07 and is worth every minute. It is rated PG-13 for brief female nudity, cartoonish violence, and a little profanity. The film would be fine for kids say 9 or 10 and up. I had great fun at THE FIFTH ELEMENT so I recommend it to you strongly and give it *** 1/2.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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