La Femme Nikita

"Good"

La Femme Nikita Review


Or just Nikita, as it was called before some guy at Samuel Goldwyn decided that they needed to make absolutely sure everybody knew the film was French and tacked-on that "La Femme." The film that made the career of Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Messenger) starts off on a Paris street as a quartet of jacked-up junkies, including Nikita (Anne Parillaud), stride over rain-slicked cobblestones towards the drugstore they're going to rob for their fix. After a shootout with the police, Nikita kills one of the cops in cold blood. Sentenced to death and supposedly executed, Nikita is instead secreted away into a government program where she's trained to become a secret agent.

For the greater part of her time in the program, Nikita acts like the addict-in-withdrawal that she is, ignoring her trainers and pulling a gun on her handler, the incongruously-named Bob (Tchéky Karyo). Then, threatened with a couple of weeks to get her act together, the antiauthoritarian punk becomes the perfect student. Before we know it, three years have passed and she's ready for her graduation present - an assassination mission at a restaurant that turns into a guns-blazing melee. Like the film's pulse-pounding beginning, it's an impressive bit of mayhem, mostly for the incongruous sight of Nikita, in her chic black cocktail dress, scurrying through a kitchen, blasting away with a massive handgun at thugs packing assault rifles and grenade launchers. But, whereas the opening scenes were shocking in their amoral ferocity, this shootout - including a scene where Nikita dives down a laundry chute to escape a blossoming fireball - shows Nikita to be just another action movie, with the usual tenuous-at-best grip on reality.

As we've seen so little of the details of Nikita's training, it's a struggle to buy her as the cold, calculating assassin who goes undercover as a nurse and is called up to the occasional bit of dirty work by the French government. After years of indoctrination as a spy, she seems to have little ability to tell a convincing lie, and even her trusting boyfriend (Jean-Hugues Anglade, of Killing Zoe and Betty Blue fame, in one of his milquetoast roles) soon begins to suspect something's going on. Called in on a pretty serious mission involving a foreign embassy, Nikita loses her calm at the first hiccup in the plan, and quickly moves on to hysteria. Although Besson probably thought he was humanizing Nikita by allowing her to cry, show fear, and all the rest, the fact that she's surrounded by an almost entirely male cast who mostly keep their wits about them, makes the film come off as patronizing and more than a little sexist. In essence, the other great female screen warriors of this time period - Nikita was filmed in 1990 - The Terminator's Linda Hamilton, would have made pretty short work of this spry and tricky but ultimately pretty weak-kneed girl.

That's not to say that Besson didn't have his finger on something here. The story of the murderer given a second chance at life - by being trained to be an assassin - has a nice ironic twist to it and inspired both the recent cable series of the same name and John Badham's businesslike, American remake Point of No Return. Also, during a time when movie arthouses across the land were choked with Merchant-Ivory costume dramas and fey Parisian relationship stories, La Femme Nikita showed that the French could blow stuff up just as good as anybody in Hollywood.

As always with Besson, the film looks great, with eye-popping colors (the transfer on MGM's new Special Edition DVD could have been better, but definitely does Thierry Arbogast's cinematography justice), and the all-star Gallic cast (including even a short cameo from Jeanne Moreau) is dead-solid perfect. Besson's sense of humor also makes the especially ludicrous final mission at the embassy more palatable, when he brings on the robotic Victor the Cleaner (played with deadpan wit by Jean Reno), who cleans up missions gone awry by essentially killing everyone in sight and liquefying the bodies using a suitcase full of acid. The DVD also includes: "The sounds of Nikita" featurette and a making-of documentary.

Although it's given more attention than it likely deserves due to its French pedigree, Nikita is still a glossy, sexy actioner that strives to be more than just another round of spy games.



La Femme Nikita

Facts and Figures

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Monday 1st April 1991

Box Office Worldwide: $5M

Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Production compaines: Gaumont, Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica, cechi gori group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 37 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Nikita, as Rico, Patrick Fontana as Coyotte, Alain Lathière as Zap, as Victor, as Bob, as Marco, as Armande, Roland Blanche as Flic interrogatoire, as le pharmacien, as L'attaché ambassade, as l'ambassadeur / Jules

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.