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The Fifth Element (PG)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Special effects audio commentary with Mark Stetson, Karen E. Goulekas, Bill Neil and Ron Gress. Making of documentary 'Discovering The Fifth Element'; Special effects featurette 'Imagining The Fifth Element'; 'The Art of The Fifth Element with Jean-Claude Mezieres' featurette; 'An Audience with Diva Plavalaguna' featurette; 'Elements of Style - Jean-Paul Gaultier' featurette; Trailers and TV spots; Launching 'The Fifth Element' - Cannes opening night party; Storyboard and production notes; 'The Sixth Element' essay.

THERE is no getting away from the fact that Luc Besson is one of cinema's great visual stylists, not to mention a terrific storyteller to boot.

Films such as Taxi, The Big Blue and Leon are rightly regarded as classics, both in terms of look and content.

The Fifth Element, however, marked something of a creative overdrive. It is, for the most part, a breathtaking sci-fi thriller, which is almost undone by the director's inability to reign one of his co-star's in.

Hence, while the film will always be remembered fondly in terms of visceral quality, it is also known as the film which was almost single-handedly ruined by Chris Tucker's hugely irritating DJ Ruby Rhod (in terms of bad characters, this one has to rate as worse than Jar-Jar Binks, of Phantom Menace fame!).

Prior to his appearance (halfway through), The Fifth Element bears all the hallmarks of becoming a cult classic, courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier's outlandish costumes, Dan Weil's eye-catching production design and another laconic turn from Bruce Willis.

The film is set in the 23rd Century, as Earth is being threatened by a fireball, representing Absolute Evil.

Our only hope lies in the Fifth Element, sent by friendly aliens and given human form in the guise of Milla Jovovich's scantily-clad Leeloo, who's rescued from a ruthless militia by Bruce Willis' renegade spacefighter, turned cabbie, Korben Dallas.

Forming an unlikely alliance, Dallas must protect Leeloo from the unwanted attentions of Gary Oldman's evil Zorg, while seeking to do what he can to help humanity with the help of Ian Holm's all-knowing priest, Cornelius.

With obvious contemporary shades of the Lord of the Rings (in terms of absolute evil, and Holm's Gandalf-like guide), The Fifth Element is a popcorn-friendly affair, with its tongue kept firmly in its kitsch cheek, throughout.

The sets are amazing, the set pieces largely well-handled and the humour nicely sarcastic; but things come undone from the moment Tucker steps forward.

DJ Ruby is the sort of character Die Hard's John McClane would have wasted no time in dispensing with, yet, sadly, lives to tell the tale, thereby rendering the latter part of the movie virtually unwatchable.

The film, itself, isn't helped by the director's apparent lack of ideas - for a film which starts so promisingly, and which seems over-run with ideas and designs, the classic race-against-time, shoot-'em-up scenario feels like something of a letdown.

That said, there is still much to enjoy from it, while the special edition DVD provides a decent 50-minute retrospective, and a fabulous hour-long MTV Cannes Fifth Element special, which features a look up Jovovich's skirt and Mike Leigh endorsing a commercial movie (among other things).

There's too much Tucker, of course, and not enough Besson; but fans of the film itself won't be disappointed for this is a special edition which really does deliver.

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