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France 1985
Directed by
Luc Besson
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars


The 1980s was decade in which the shopping mall took over the Western world and conspicuous consumption became a way of life for all thanks to the credit card. It was also the decade when the hubris of youth finally swept all before it. In America it was epitomized by John Hughes and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) in France by Luc Besson and Subway.

The 26 year old writer-director sets his story not in a mall but the Paris Metro where Fred (Christopher Lambert) who has just robbed some valuable papers takes refuge. Here he meets various soi-disant über-cool subterraneans (Jean Reno plays a drummer in a pop band who all dress in matching kakhi jungle gear with topees - only Europeans would think that was cool).played by Besson regulars Jean-Hugues Anglade and Jean Reno as well as Richard Bohringer, a popular face at the time.  Isabelle Adjani plays the bird-in-a gilded-cage wife of the mobster Fred has robbed..  Mall/Metro? Who cares? The main idea is that these cool kids play games with The Man, here largely represented by the dumb-ass Metro police (played to good effect by Michel Galabru and Jean-Pierre Bacri),

If Besson has a talent, it is for stretching the most inconsequential motif into a considerable swathe of footage, much like the old Westerns which used to fill in time with long sequences of cowboys galloping across the desert. Here it’s Anglade on roller skates or Fred eluding the police in the apparently labyrinthine tunnels to the accompaniment of tinny synthesizer music by Besson’s regular collaborator, Eric Serra.

A hit in its day, one from which, unfortunately, Besson has never looked back, Subway is a film that is not half as good as it think it is and that is just one of the qualities that make it insufferable.




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