On improvising a burglary at a shady tycoon's home, Fred takes refuge in the hip and surreal universe of the Paris Metro and encounters its assorted denizens, the tycoon's henchmen and his disenchanted young wife.
In the post-apocalyptic future, only a few humans are left. No one is able to speak; the film contains no dialogue, and characters communicate non-verbally. A determined loner befriends a reclusive older man and these two battle against vicious thugs for food, shelter and life itself.
Le Dernier Combat is an interesting and memorable take on the familiar postapocalyptic scenario, and its primary conceit -- its near-total lack of dialogue -- is effective, but ultimately it's a stylish but overly familiar "lone hero of the apocalypse" story without much to add to our understanding of human nature.
The absence of dialogue in the film, while interesting, is not quite original -- it was done 20 years earlier in the Twilight Zone episode "Two" (starring Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery), which like this film took place in postapocalyptic wasteland; and that story, compressed as it was into a half-hour episode, carried an emotional heft largely lacking in Luc Besson's take.
The problem with this film, as with most of Besson's work, is its essential shallowness; while Le Dernier Combat is undeniably a visually appealing work which showcases Besson's ample talents as a maker of stylish, humorous and thrilling action films (Le Femme Nikita, Leon), and while it does feature some genuinely touching and quirky moments, Besson's ability to plumb the depths of human nature falls far short of what a story of this kind demands.
The other major problem with this film, for a contemporary audience, is the music. Le Dernier Combat is saddled with a laughably inappropriate early 80's jazz-disco score that practically drains any dramatic impact from scenes in which it appears. Jaunty dance music isn't quite what one expects in a scene of tragic human suffering. Even Tangerine Dream would be preferable to Eric Serra's work on this film.
Le Dernier Combat is a film worth seeing, if only so that Luc Besson fans can get an early glimpse of the Besson style in its infancy, and there is no denying the appeal of its performances and the impressive fact of how visually dynamic the film is given its rock-bottom budget. But science fiction fans expecting a powerful human drama should lower their expectations.
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