I saw the trailer for “Anna” at the “John Wick 3” viewing and it was pretty clever advertising. In it, we saw an exotic looking blonde executing 20 plus “bad guys” in a restaurant with the same fighting style we have seen in the “John Wick” films along with the recent “Atomic Blonde” featuring a very similar looking Charlize Theron. I had no problem with these likenesses. If anything, it only amplified my earnestness to see it. Female KGB assassin movie? I’m all over that. “Anna’s” theatre release was in June and I knew I wasn’t going to make a special trip for it, but when it became available for streaming last week, I was all over it.
“Adversity is a great teacher.”
There’s a lot of time hopping that happens throughout and so the chronology gets a little broken. Speaking of broken, we start the story with high fashion “model” Anna, where she is just coming into the business in France. We quickly joust back to a very emaciated and sickly looking Anna struggling to do little more than exist in Russia with her piece of garbage junkie boyfriend. The next timeline shows how she goes from starving, abused girlfriend to KGB assassin in training without actually showing any of the training. That leads us up to current time where she is living that model life. This gives her access to targets, while living her cover story until she comes in question with the CIA and Cillian Murphy. Now suddenly she’s locked in a spy game of cold war propensities. A pawn for each side.
What “Anna” advertised as and delivered on was two different entities entirely. The biggest action sequence was in the trailer from start to finish. While there was plenty of killing and violence this was not a straight action flick. It was a spy film masquerading as a high action movie. As a spy film, it stood fine on its own two feet, but if you were signing up for what I did, it was a letdown. Nearly halfway into what should have been titled “Cold War Spy Games” I finally engaged in what the movie was instead of what it wasn’t and began to enjoy it as it was intended, rather than advertised.
“I work for the KGB, baby.”
It is a lot of fun and tries desperately to keep you on your toes with the time-jumping, and flashbacks. It really does want to be two steps ahead of the viewer, and even though you might not figure out the endgame or see everything coming, you can feel how earnest it is to be super clever and it doesn’t really need to be.
The character of “Anna” played by Sasha Luss is extraordinary to look at. She has the look of a supermodel and her skyscraper tall and thin body certainly does give you the false assumption that she isn’t physically capable of the feats she is. When she does go John Wick on the bad guys it’s a fun watch. Her overall demeanor feels very melancholy and Russian. That aloofness makes her apathy to everything understandable.
I really, really like Luke Evans in this. He discovers her and brings her into the fold and ultimately falls in love with her (like everyone else in this movie), but his character had more heart and care than the rest of the cast put together. The rest of the cast was fun, particularly Helen Mirren and Cillian Murphy who definitely up the stakes of each side taking its piece of Anna.
“I have never had a day of freedom, six months will be an eternity”
Overall, we end up with a mediocre spy story. No new ground treaded here. No amazing action or fight sequences and no inspiring character bits, but overall it did work. It was fun and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I knew what I was signing up for. I don’t like the bait and switch. There’s a lot of annoying pauses that really take too long (the fake lesbian girlfriend pieces) and makes you evaluate how imbalanced their relationship is and really wonder why she’s even with her when she treats her like such utter garbage, but alas it’s fiction and it’s fun. If it pops up on Netflix or Amazon I’d probably watch it again and give it a second chance, but it’s definitely worth watching. Equally, you aren’t missing anything amazing if you never give it a chance.
Rating 2.5/5 Stars