The Messenger (1999) Movie Review

It’s somewhat ironic that I’ve just finished reviewing an excellent period adventure movie in Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and now I’m about to royally trash another period adventure movie. To begin with, let me state that I am big fan of Luc Besson, whose “La Femme Nikita” (which he wrote and directed) and “Kiss of the Dragon” (which he wrote and produced) are two of my favorite action movies. But for the life of me, I cannot fathom why he would make this movie. The only reason I can come up with is that it’s an inherently French tale, about a French heroine and the French are the heroes, the British the bad guys. The tale of Joan of Arc is legendary in France, and I suppose on par with American’s George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, except, you know, she’s got breasts.

All of the above being said, “The Messenger” is one of the most boring movies I have ever seen. Even the fact that the movie is filled with battle scenes and brutal slayings and clashing swords, flying horses, and piercing arrows doesn’t save it. There is just so much one can take, and Besson seems to be going for the “more is more” approach instead of the much preferable “more is okay but not too much” that action period movies like “Braveheart” and “Seven Samurai” took. In fact, the middle half of the movie is nothing but battle scenes. After the brilliant brutality that was “Braveheart,” I didn’t think anyone could make a movie with so many battle scenes that would bore me, but “The Messenger” did just that.

It is a boring movie, folks.

Another fault that I find with the movie is its choice of Milla Jovovich to play the lead role. Forget, for one moment, that Jovovich is a former model turned actress (and we all know what bad track records those people have, even compared to the slaughterhouse that is musicians-turn-actors). After watching Jovovich in “The Messenger” and “The Fifth Element,” a movie Besson also wrote and directed, I have come to the conclusion that Milla Jovovich cannot act to save her life.

Jovovich’s idea of acting is letting facial ticks do all the speaking for her. Instead of lines of dialogue in “The Messenger,” Jovovich’s Joan of Arc trembles like a woman dying of pneumonia. I swear to God, the woman’s facial features never rests for a second. It’s always twitching or doing some kind of weird, painful contortions. I suppose this was to show Joan of Arc’s “inner turmoil,” but all it did was make me wish Besson didn’t do so many close-ups of her face.

The movie is very boring. I don’t know what else to say, or how else to describe it. It seems quite impossible that it would become this boring, especially with so many bloody battle scenes and great American actors involved. There’s Dustin Hoffman, who may or may not be real; there’s John Malkovich, a man who has never made a bad movie; and then there’s Faye Dunaway, speaking fluent English in a French role.

In fact, all the Americans speak perfect English without any supposed French accents. I believe even Jovovich spoke perfect English, although her facial ticks and contortions made her voice tremble and break like she was a 13-year old girl hitting puberty. The lack of French accents is not a bad thing, and not even the real reason I’m bringing it up; it’s the fact that while all the American actors are speaking in perfect English, their French counterparts all have French accented English! I wonder what was behind the choice of making everyone speak English instead of French. Was it just to make the movie more “international?”

Long story brief: Joan fights, wins war, gets indicted for crimes against religion, goes on trial, is burn at the stake. The End. Yet another reason why the French sucks at winning wars. Even when they find someone who can win wars for them, they end up executing her.

Luc Besson (director) / Luc Besson, Andrew Birkin (screenplay)
CAST: Milla Jovovich …. Joan of Arc
Dustin Hoffman …. The Conscience
Faye Dunaway …. Yolande D’Aragon
John Malkovich …. Charles VII

Buy The Messenger on DVD