In 1986, long before Luc Besson gave us such classics as Taken, The Fifth Element, or Leon: The Professional, he helped co-write and produce the wacky sci-fi/thriller Kamikaze. I’m a fan of Besson, and not only had I never seen this film, I had never heard of it, so I was more than happy to check it out. In my opinion Luc Besson is one of the best action filmmakers out there. Whether he is writing, directing, or producing, he manages to put out an enjoyable product on a more consistent basis than many others. If you are unfamiliar with the guy’s work, go ahead and take a moment to check him out on IMDB, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find a few titles on his resume that you’ve enjoyed. Now in the 80’s you can say he was still cutting his teeth and trying to make a name for himself and had some moderate success. Subway (1985) is a fun little standout, and in 1988 he had The Big Blue. In that time he handed off the script for Kamikaze to Didier Grousset, his Assistant Director from Subway, to direct the film, and as they say, the rest is history.
The film opens up with Albert (Michel Galabru) being fired after working with the company for 30 years. He’s a brilliant scientist and inventor, but he’s also a bit lonely and a bit nutty. He’s bitter about how he’s been treated and decides that he’s on a permanent “vacation”. Albert ends up staying awake and watching television virtually non-stop and develops an obsession/hatred for the reporters during the news broadcast, and this inspires him to create a unique little gizmo. This device he creates allows him to shoot at his television, and it will blast the announcer he was aiming at, causing their guts to explode. It’s silly, it’s absurd, but it sure does make this movie a lot of fun. Don’t think about the logic of how this is possible, because you simply can’t.
Inspector Romain Pascot (Richard Bohringer) is brought in to try to find out who this madman is who is killing news anchors, and he brings in a team of scientists to figure how it is even possible. One of my favorite bits with Pascot doesn’t even involve him being a detective, but it has him and his daughter out buying a washer and dryer unit. He takes a call and is so preoccupied with the case he just tells the daughter he has to leave, so she needs to pick out the machine she wants, and he’ll write a check. This is a French film, but all I’m saying is when I was 12, my parents barely let me decide what was for dinner, much less electrical appliances that were to be installed in the home.
I also have to bring up the family dynamic Albert has with his nephew and the nephew’s wife. She is a sweet enough girl and tries to do what she can to win over her uncle, but he is just not having it. Just the way he treats her is somewhere between humorous and cruel, and how this tension between the two escalates … let’s just say maybe she should have listened when he first complained about the stew being overcooked. Trying to make sense of Albert’s behavior is simply impossible, because he’s literally lost his mind, and despite how he behaves, it actually is a pretty decent performance by Galabru.
This film also has what must be one of the silliest duels in cinematic history when Albert and Pascot showdown with their devices, one man at home in a recliner with his device up against Pascot in a studio miles away thinking he can fire his device virtually at the same time. This is the kind of silliness I expect from a midnight drive-in movie from back in the day, but that’s the kind of fun this movie delivers.
The cinematography is slick, and this film just oozes the 80’s down to the score. I can see this movie being remade and focusing on the keyboard warriors on social media, and because of that I feel this film still can find a relatable audience. This is one Luc Besson most likely has forgotten was on his resume, but it’s still a fun little romp as long as you lower your expectations.