Red Siren (La Sirene Rouge) (2002)

red_siren2This is a film that could work. It could work as a film, and it could work as a separate entity. As a film that involves such an elaborate plot, it could work as a purely engrossing thriller, but the problem is it doesn’t work. About half of the time, the film is beaming with potential and possibilities that are completely misfired with another half that just  can’t get it at that level of sophistication. “The Red Siren” bounces back and forth with a hackneyed plot that is both confusing and un-involving while presenting sub-plots that are hardly ever developed. So much seems to be happening during this, but none of it is ever fleshed out in to anything completely coherent. “The Red Siren” could also work were it not such a shameless retread of “The Professional”.

I’ve never read the book, and I can’t verify whether the source material is basically the same as the film, but this is ultimately just a retread that shamelessly rips off Besson’s masterpiece. Hardened ex-soldier with a checkered past stumbles on to a girl on the run from a crime syndicate and decides to protect her and involve himself in her situation while they bond, hardened killer with a checkered past stumbles on to a girl on the run from a crime syndicate who killed her family decides to protect and involve himself in her situation her while they bond. There’s a crooked confidant of the man, and the inevitable face off in a hotel room, not to mention the over the top villain who will stop at nothing to get the girl.

Oldman incomparably gave a great performance, but Frances Barber with her black hair, and serpentine smile is atrocious as the mustache twirling Eva, the villain that make the silent film villains look sophisticated. She chews the scenery and spits it out through often very clunky dialogue. I could forgive the blatant derivative elements from “The Professional” had the hero and heroine had some sort of chemistry. Any type of chemistry, but their dialogue here is mostly trite one-liners, and the basic exposition you’d expect from a film like this. And Asia Argento is basically wasted and under-developed as the part protagonist, part antagonist of the film who works within the system. Though, she’s the marquee draw in, there’s basically not a lot for her to do here, in spite of being the only star featured on the poster.

Asia Argento, you’re not fooling anyone, babe. Though you dress in suits in this film and are often toned down, it’s still evident you are the sex goddess I worship like a goddess. You can look as plain as you want, but at the end of the day, I still want to plant you against a wall and–well use your imagination, folks. I sure am. Either way, Asia does manage to pull in a good performance and works with the scraps of characterization tossed at her which becomes unusual since she’s featured so prominently on the cover. She appears in the first half and then for the rest of the film she becomes of a presence as the law attempting to pin down the girl. She follows her and hopes to get to her before she can be killed or corrupted.

The film for all its lacking and faults, does manage to pull in some tense sequences and taut action that make for some engrossing imagery, meanwhile Olivier Megaton gives some beautiful direction along with dazzling cinematography making “The Red Siren” often a beautifully bleak work that at least is fun to look at. For a movie that has an opening sequence that’s basically a compact music video, it’s sad that this is such a slow and awfully boring film with a story that fails to give us anything original and fails to take the elements that it derives from its source material and use it to its advantage. Everything in the end feels incomplete and the attempted subtext and morality, evil, and innocence is lost. Four screenwriters adapting from a novel and all they could process was a complete and total rip-off of “The Professional” sans Luc Besson? I just don’t get it. “The Red Siren” could be a competent film if you forget the confusing, boring plot, under-developed characters, and utterly derivative elements, and just focus on Asia Argento’s beauty. Hey, it works for me.