Whether she’s an ensemble player in a big-budget genre film (Goldeneye, X-Men), or the lead in an Ameri-indie (Love & Sex, Turn the River), Famke Janssen carries an aura of admirable self-sufficiency. Her exotic looks means that she can hold your attention even when’s placed at the margins of the frame. Orgasming to the sounds of machine gun as an assassin who kills men with her thighs in Goldeneye, or giggling at the idiocy of lover Kenneth Branagh, Celebrity (1998), she always seems game – even when the movie may have forgotten what to do with her.
While her leading roles feel like concepts derived from diva worship, Janssen is winningly, refreshingly opaque. In Turn the River (2007), she plays a working-class pool-shark, determined to win back custody of her son. The movie sounds like boilerplate for a de-glammed actor vehicle, but Janssen doesn’t pry for empathy. Her coolness results in a physical and emotional awkwardness that is true to the character.
A Dutch-born former model and New Yorker since the 80’s, Janssen debuted on-screen in the mid 90’s. In a fickle industry, genre films tend to be the sanctuary to Euro-goddesses. But while Taken 2 (opening October 5) might pay the mortgage, Janssen has written and directed her first feature, Bringing Up Bobby. Ukranian- Olive (Milla Jovovich) is a con artist and single-mother raising her young son in Oklahoma. But when one of her schemes results in jail time, she has to decide whether to fight for her son, or let him try to live a normal life with a wealthy couple played by Marcia Cross and Bill Pullman.