"SUBWAY" is an underground movie -- a sub-urban blast of fast French fatalism set in the passages of the Paris Metro. Overworked by New Waver Luc Besson, it offers visual verve, if not a lot of storytelling savvy.
A little nihilism, some existentialism and quite a few chase scenes combine in this eclectic second movie by the 26-year-old Besson. He creates a hyper, visual fantasy for the post- verbal age, a full-length video wrapped around a disillusioned central character who's a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Mad Max.
What "The Road Warrior" did for cars, "Subway" almost does for rapid transit, with its focus on the commuter cars that glide in and shuttle off into the passageways around the Op,era stop, where much of this tragicomic parable takes place. This parable's philosophy, however, is inane, imitative, prepackaged punk.
Young adults who feel compromised by comfort, lobotomized by television and pressured by too much mobility, real and imagined, might respond to the blank-eyed naivet,e of its anti-hero. Christopher Lambert, last seen as the ape man of "Greystoke," stars -- his long, brown locks now a scruffy, peroxide blond. He still doesn't say much, grunting in New Wave Neanderthal, a native of the concrete caves that shelter Parisians en route.
Lambert, the puzzled punk muppet in a ratty trench coat, flees a sedanful of tuxedoed thugs and moves into the subway, where he finds a demimonde of street people who survive in the byways off the commuter arteries. These subterranean types live, day in and day out, in artificial light and air; lounge in plastic chairs and read discarded papers; dine at the fast-food bistros and commuter bars.
There's Gros Bill (here he'd be, how-you- say, Big Bill), a jumbo hobo who pumps up his superhero biceps by weight-lifting pieces of the subway. There's the Skater, skinny as a whip, who speeds through the fluorescent-lit tunnels with tiny headlights on his roller skates, snatching purses from careless girls. And blind accordian players, a drummer, a West Indian blues singer, a bassist and assorted other musicians that Lambert, who of course becomes a rock impresario, forms into a group. They play catchy, anti-commercial tunes with messages like: TV is bad for you.
Isabelle Adjani, the striking beauty of Francois Truffaut's "The Story of Adele H.," costars as "Subway's" Cinderella. The frustrated wife of a rich businessman, she's first blackmailed by Lambert, then attracted to his alternative lifestyle.
The cops are thrown into this m,elange to give the characters some real menace to react to, but it seems that there are no real problems anymore. These people are just so bored and so fed up that they hole up, disconnected from surface reality and free to think deeply, as it were.
I'm sure there are some great thoughts here somewhere. Then again, maybe it's just a picture about the subway.
SUBWAY (Unrated) -- In French with subtitles at the Key.