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Luc Besson’s LA FEMME NIKITA (GET IT ON DISK HERE) left quite the impact on me in the 90’s. La Femme juggled many balls (pun intended) at the same time and never dropped one, resulting in a cinematic experience that simply floored me at the time. Now, I hadn’t seen the picture since its initial release but was prompted to revisit it recently and figured I would come back here and keyboard-hurl away. So did it still hold up? For me it did, and then some!
Besson (who got carte blanche to do this one after the su$$ess of The Big Blue) served up a nuanced story-line that could have easily been devoid of depth, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The flick had lots of heart and even an odd “love triangle” with Nikita in the middle, her “duh eyed” boyfriend (who is unaware of her true profession) on one end and her “assassin mentor" on the other. The trio made for a compelling dynamic, not black, not white but draped in a shade of grey. The same went for the portrayal of Nikita herself who was a lost and feral woman at first, that then got domesticated through her imposed training and that eventually found herself via her love life and the ordeal she was put through. I was affected by Nikita grappling with that inner conflict throughout the narrative: the life she has been forced to live out, versus the “normal” life she craves. Good stuff!
But fear not; LA FEMME NIKITA wasn’t all inner turmoil and Grey Poupon, it was also a taunt and slick (in a film noir meets the 90's way) action thriller that delivered the wam-bam goods and then some! Amidst the drama Besson offered up a handful of cool-as-f*ck, tension charged and visceral action scenes that whooped in terms of choreography and Besson's style heavy execution. Potent slow motion, random “gun POV” shots (which were ahead of their time), sublime framing, mood galore - Besson’s action set pieces were like a violent opera set in carnage motion. Dang! The cast on hand was tops as well! Anne Parillaud gave a bold and earnest show; Jean-Hugues Anglade did the “nice guy” thing well while Tchéky Karyo was at his enigmatic best as the seemingly cold-hearted Bob. NOTE: Jean Reno owned it as the trigger-happy “Cleaner"; a prelude to his astounding turn in Besson’s The Professional (WATCH IT HERE).
Add to all that quality some moments of bleak/circumstantial humor that hit the spot and an atmospheric score by Eric Serra that often amplified the noir-ish aesthetics tendencies of the film and you get a tight little classic that survived the test of time and even gave birth to countless offshoots. Yup, LA FEMME NIKITA was remade in 1991 by Hong Kong by Stephen Shin (renamed Black Cat). It was done again in the US of A by John Badham, was titled Point of No Return (WATCH IT HERE) and starred Bridget Fonda. It was then turned into a TV series (that lasted 5 seasons) in 1997 starring Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis. And was finally rebooted yet again by the CW in 2010 with Maggie Q in the lead. Damn! Besson should feel complimented!
Any drawbacks? Looking at it again today with wiser eyes and a slower brain, my main and only peeve with the picture would be the last act. Not only did the story end way too abruptly for my liking, but the finale didn’t crescendo big enough to top the awesome that had preceded it. Don’t get me wrong, the last 20 minutes still carried some punch – but an added 10 minutes tagged to its ass and it going further with its get-down would have been swell! On the whole re-watching LA FEMME NIKITA acted as a firm reminder as to why it had such legs and influenced so many other movies after its release. It is still considered to be one of Besson’s best to this day for a reason! If you're serious about cinema and you haven't seen this bad-girl yet stop reading this crap and get to it!