Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theaters this Friday and to celebrate, we here at the Geeked Gods thought it would be fun to take a look back at his career and make some recommendations for fans that just cant get enough of that beautiful Franco- action guru Luc Besson’s work. Without father pomp we’d like to present four Luc Besson films you should see before (or after) catching Valerian.
The 2008 film that made Liam Neeson a certified action star at an age when most men are counting down the days till retirement redefined the genre and spawned an endless parade of imitators. The tale of ex-CIA agent and all-around badass, Bryan Mills’ quest to rescue his kidnapped daughter was written and produced by Besson.
This movie features high-octane action sequences that mix perfectly with the incredible tension and over the top badassery interpreted perfectly by the star. Some of the most unique elements of the story have to be its focus on the very real and very scary world of human trafficking that laid the groundwork for its plot. Some highlights include Liam Neesons killing the shit out of punk-ass busters, Liam Neesons being intimidating while talking on the phone (in a way we all imagine we sound while threatening our internet providers) and Liam Neesons torturing a dude by hooking him up to the light fixture in a dank French hotel room.
There’s a reason Taken became every dad’s go-to movie when some snot-nosed idiot comes around to pick up his kid for a date and it owes a large credit to the man behind the typewriter (or laptop, probably laptop).
La Femme Nikita
The 1990 breakout action/crime film starts (X) as a drug addicted teen on the wrong side of the law who is given a second chance by a syndicate of international assassins. She is trained in weapons and the art of femme fatale (because yanno lady-assassin).
There are wonderful comedic elements in this film, particularly in the bathroom assassination scene. While away on a holiday, our hero (or anti-hero?) locks herself in the bathroom of their hotel suite as her fiancé attempts to carry out a serious conversation about their relationship, all while Nikita is set to carry out an assassination (how often does this happen, ladies?). Couple that with Jean Reno’s appearance as the cleaner in what now feels like a prequel to Besson and Reno’s later collaboration in Leon (more on that later).
While some elements feel a bit dated, this film tells the story of a low-life junkie that turns her life around and becomes a certified badass. Nikita is a visually pleasing, fast-paced showcase that should serve as study-material for film students everywhere.
The Fifth Element
Full disclosure, in the summer of 1998 my family embarked on the roller-coaster lifestyle that comes along with satellite-TV ownership, and with it a free subscription to HBO. For reasons unknown to us then, my sister and I ended up watching this film basically every day that fateful season and to this day I can recite most, if not all the lines from memory. So it’s safe to say this movie holds a special place in my heart.
The sprawling futurist sci-fi epic tells the story of an all-powerful woman, the literal embodiment of a force of nature and also Bruce Willis as they battle their way across the stars and save the universe. This film is the perfect mix of action, sci-fi and dark comedy with powerhouse performances from Gary Oldman as the villainous Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Mila Milla Jovovich as Leeloo and a young Lady Gaga as that weird blue diva from the opera scene.
Willis plays a down on his luck cab driver thrust into an adventure as the titular element literally falls into his lap (er, cab?) and he is forced to accompany her on a journey to a far off planet. What makes this movie so unique is that Willis’ Corbin Dallas feels more like a Shepard tasked with guiding the true protagonist (Leeloo) to her heroic destiny. He spends most of the action sequences protecting the perfectly cast Ruby Rodd (Chris Tucker) while Leeloo has her own adventure (could this be the pre-Pacific Rim Mako Mori test?).
Leon: The Professional
This 1994 classic tells the story of an orphaned girl played by Natalie Portman who is taken in as the ward of a hitman (Jean Reno) in the urban jungle of New York City. This was Besson’s first crossover hit in the U.S. and launched the careers of many of the film’s stars.
The action begins when crooked DEA agent Norman Stansfield (played by the immortal Gary Oldman) murders the family of Matilda (Portman) from there she is taken in by Leon and trained to become a Professional killer (get it, like the title?). The two share a bond that Matilda confuses for romantic love, which Leon hilariously corrects in one of the most memorable scenes in the film.
I think one of the most interesting elements here isn’t just the well-paced and thrilling plot, but the bond that Matilda and Leon share. The previously solipsistic gun-for-hire, becomes something of a father figure to the orphaned girl and she a connection to humanity that had previously eluded the titular hero.
Plus there are some great stories from on set about how much Gary Oldman scared Natalie Portman while in character, only to completely turn face when the cameras stopped rolling.