Subway brings to mind Orson Welles’ quip about the cinema being the greatest electric train set a boy could have. Its director, Luc Besson, only 26, showed resourcefulness and a sense of filmmaking fun with his 1982 low-budget sci-fier Le Dernier Combat. For his second feature, Gaumont (distrib of Combat) gave him over 15 million francs, Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani as stars, and let him go play in the Paris Metro.
Result may disappoint some for its singular lack of ambition or purpose and its ragged narrative, but still proves a charmingly cartoonish escapade, strong on humor and rock rhythms.
Pic’s hero is Lambert, a dynamite-toting, punk-coiffed eccentric who has stolen some compromising documents belonging to Adjani’s influential husband. Lambert takes refuge in the subway at the moment of its early morning closing.
There he befriends some of the subterranean denizens – a young roller-skating purse-snatcher (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a shady flower-seller (Richard Bohringer) and a black muscleman who works out with spare subway car parts – and decides to realize his dream of managing a rock band, by recruiting the Metro’s itinerant musicians. In the meantime he is sought by the thugs, the Paris transport police (headed by Michel Galabru), and Adjani.
Film went through heavy cutting in final editing stages, with 40 minutes shorn away to get it down to average commercial length, which explains the lapses in plot and sometimes disjointed continuity. But the roughness feels right in a film that resolutely refuses to take itself seriously.