Red Siren (2002)
Director: Olivier Mégaton
Precocious non-brat Alice (Negraeo) is on the run from her psychotic “snuff loving” mother (Barber) and her crew of relentless hitmen. She eventually hooks up with a guilt-ridden, yet badass, mercenary named Hugo (Barr), who takes her under his wing and proceeds to blow away any prick who tries to harm her. Oh and Asia Argento shows up…to not do much…but to do it very well.
This flick was based on unorthodox and happy-go-drug user French author Maurice G. Dantec’s 1993 novel “La Sirene Rouge”. For some peculiar reason that only my shrink (who also happens to be my imaginary friend) knows for certain, I expected a horror/thriller in the same vein as "Se7en" when slapping this disc into my DVD player. Where the hell did I get that assumption? NOTE TO SELF: Just say no. So yes, I was surprised when I got a slack version of "The Professional" (or "Leon", if you prefer) instead.
"La Sirene Rouge" kicked off with a physical/emotional bang and then went on to randomly entertain throughout. I adored the spiced-up premise, the pleasant to the eye settings and the taut action bits. Wait till you see that hotel room shootout! It totally bowled me over via its use of lighting, silence and psychotic shots. Think the “hotel room” siege from "The Professional"...but on acid. WOW! Yes, you guessed it, my heaviest anchor to this canoe ride was unquestionably director Megaton’s (no relation to the groovy Decepticon leader) visual panache. In my opinion, a first-class director manages to stir the viewer via the images he puts out and this dude did just that flamboyantly. Granted, the shoe-polish kind of kicked into under-drive during the middle block, but the rest was pure aesthetically mesmerizing gold. NICE! The stellar casting was also a big plus when it came to this baby crying the right tune. Jean-Marc Barre (Hugo), in particular, excelled as the quiet, yet deadly, mercenary. I loved to love him! Young Alexandra Negrao (Alice) gave a charming show too, while hottie Asia Argento (Anita) owned the screen in a rare understated and plain-girl type role. GOOD STUFF!
Where “La Sirene Rouge” faltered is that it brought up a lot of exciting themes and subplots, but never ran with them far enough to whoop me silly to the max. Hugo’s self-loathing wasn’t felt enough, the “snuff” angle was too vague, the murderous mother felt like a cartoon (too bad, she was one sick dame), the Asia Argento part was underwritten, while the father/daughter type relationship Hugo and Alice shared should’ve gone further. In effect, the intended emotional “bang” the narrative was supposed to deliver never fully happened for me. Moreover, it didn’t help matters that the pacing was at times “off” and that the story was a tad all over the place. Some tightening up was needed! Lastly, although minor, I have to get this off my battle-axe...that Don Juan Portuguese cop that wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (yes, she said no, champ…like 3 times!) didn’t vanish out the movie quickly enough for my liking. What an annoying donkey!
On the whole, I cha-cha'd to some extent with “La Sirene Rouge”. Sure, it was uneven, but when the end credits rolled, I could safely say that I got something above the norm out of it. There was definitely a charm about the picture (maybe it was the French thing) that rubbed my marbles the right way. The question is...will "La Sirene Rouge" sing for you?
We get some light plasma, a gruesome corpse and various bullet hits.
Jean-Marc Barr (Hugo) has aged very gracefully since his “Le Grand Blue” days and gave his role the quiet intensity required. Very likeable! Alexandra Negrao (Alice) joined the ranks of rare young actresses who can act. Good show! Frances Barber (Eva) was too cartoonish for me to take her role seriously. Asia Argento (Anita) took a "nothing" part and gave it some pizzazz via her charismatic and grounded display.
T & A
A toned Jean-Marc Barr went shirtless for the ladies. We get nothing. Asia…what’s going on? You slumming or what?
Visceral, rhythmic, striking, stylish and moving are all words that can describe the keen eye that Megaton revealed in this polished jewel. Give the man a better script and watch the sparks fly! He’s one to watch!
Well, the flick opened with some Ramstein. All good in my book! We also got a powerful score by Nicholas Bikialo, some trip-hop tunes and a couple of quirky ditties.
It should be said that a polished visual style goes a long way with me in terms of enjoying a movie. So yes, “La Sirene Rouge” entranced me the whole way due to its hypnotizing images. What a hot looking movie! The strong cast and the casual zany action also came through! It’s too bad that the story itself was a bit too glazed over and unfocused to fully punch in…but what can you do? I’ll end with some Arrow advice: Viewers who fear a slow pace, be warned, this one has its laggy moments. Action junkies…you have to see that hotel shootout sequence. Asia Argento fans...rent "Scarlet Diva" to see her butt naked. As for me, I feel that I’ll eventually go back to "La Sirene Rouge" for a second viewing. It’s that kind of movie.
"La Sirene Rouge” was released theatrically in France in 2002 and is now (2004) available in North America via Lion's Gate Films (under the title "Red Siren").
The North American box cover art of this film features Asia Argento looking sexy and brandishing a gun. Don’t let the cover fool ya though, Argento’s role in the flick is a passive one and it's Jean-Marc Barr who is doing the ass kicking.