The Fifth Element (1997)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Action, Space Adventure  |   Release Date - May 9, 1997 (USA)  |   Run Time - 126 min.  |   Countries - France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Steven E. McDonald

The Fifth Element is a colorful riot of a story, not precisely long on sensible plotting but making up for its flaws with nonstop movement and humor, courtesy of director Luc Besson. It's a flat-out comedy with a handful of dramatic elements designed to appease those looking for an event movie, and Bruce Willis does a brilliant job of playing the tight-jawed, fast-shooting, hard-hitting hero. Gary Oldman's Zorg is a flare of color, tacky and dangerous, no physical antagonist for Dallas (Bruce Willis), but making up for it in intellect -- which tends to come a cropper, since none of his assistants has the brains to tie shoelaces without disaster. Ian Holm is in fine form too, turning in a lightly comic performance that's a delight to watch. The Fifth Element is really worth the candle when it comes to the design and visual effects. Sticking with the story will get viewers through all the eye candy in a speedy enough fashion, and even Chris Tucker's seriously over-the-top performance as Ruby Rhod is unlikely to cause a bump. New York in the 23rd century is crowded and overactive, buildings rising for miles and traffic running in multiple lanes between those buildings. While the makeup effects seem to be relatively ordinary, the visual effects -- computer-generated as well as model-based -- are eye-popping and brain-straining. The flying traffic alone is phenomenally detailed. Overall, the film is a joy to look at, though video viewers are recommended to find a letterboxed copy. As a whole, The Fifth Element lives up to its title as a self-proclaimed "Sci-Fi Pop Epic." Taken in the intended spirit -- as a comedy, rather than as a dramatic effort -- the film is grand entertainment.