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|Deadlier than the male...
La Femme Nikita
Luc Besson (dir)
with: Anne Parillaud, Tcheky Karyo, Jean Reno
|One of my favourite over-the-top, violence-almost-for-it's-own-sake little gems of nihilistic cinema.
Convicted of the cold-blooded murder of a cop in a drugstore robbery gone Very Bad, sentenced to death, given one chance to live as an operative for a secret government agency, Nikita discovers, in her cover identity, a pleasure in life that she never knew in her street-junkie days.
A normal life, with a guy who loves her, a nice apartment, and an almost-normal life -- most of the time.
Except when she has to kill.
As a picture of the humanisation and civilisation of someone originally just barely above killer-ape level, La Femme Nikita is fascinating to watch.
As an excuse to revel (perhaps i mean "wallow") in brilliantly-choreographed cinematic violence, it is wonderful.
And, as a chance to actually meet an action-film hero(ine) with whom one can, in the long run, sympathise, it is almost unsurpassed. (There is, of course, Leon [The Professional], made by some French guy ... err, never mind...)
Anne Parillaud's performance is key here -- she has to portray all of Nikita's faces and her changes and her eventual frantic wish to get Out convincingly. And she does.
Tcheky Karyo as "Bob", her agency control, is wonderful as always -- even in the worst disasters (say, Kiss of the Dragon}, he never gives less than his best.
Jean Reno, as the "cleaner" sent to tidy up when Nikita's last assignment goes hideously wrong, is implacable and terrifying and apparently completely inhuman -- a character he essentially repeats in his starring role in Besson's later Leon (originally released in the US as The Professional), where he is implacable, terrifying and all-too-human.
My favourite scene in "Nikita", possibly representative of the absurdist/nihilist air of the whole film, is the one of the little girl in her skimpy sexy underwear wearing a radio headset and aiming a huge rifle out a bathroom window at people getting into a Venetian gondola waiting for her target to be identified, as her boyfriend knocks on the locked door demanding to know if she's all right in there...
[A scene, incidentally, whose flatfooted handling in the horrid American "remake" Point of No Return can serve as a case study of everything that's wrong with that whole project.]
Just plain brilliant work from the director of Subway, Leon and The Fifth Element.
While this film may not be one for those whose violence tolerance is low, nor for those who expect action films to reassure them that We Are The Good Guys and that Straight Shooters Always Win, i expect that that leaves enough of the rest of us to keep it popular for a while.