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France 199o
Directed by
Luc Besson
117 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Femme Nikita, La

From Eric Serra’s synthesizer score to the permed hair and padded shoulders and most damningly, a completely unjustified attitude of self-importance, Luc Besson’s action film, which was a huge hit in its day is very much of its time.

Anne Parillaud plays Nikita who, when the film opens is supposed to be a 19 year old (Parillaud was 30 at the time) drug-addicted punk who takes part in bungled drugstore robbery. Supposedly sociopathic, she is inducted into a secret government program which trains her to be a skilled assassin. Under the guidance of Bob (Tcheky Karyo), over a period of years she is transformed into an elegant young woman who settles down with a boyfriend, Marco (Jean-Hughes Anglade), but her double life gradually takes its toll on her sang froid.
Aside from the 80s kitsch, La Femme Nikita has problems with its plot. The first half of the film which establishes the relationship between Nikita and her minder, Bob, has a certain integrity but the second part, in which Nikita assumes a normal life has little credibility, glossing over any supposed explanation of how these two live, the story eventually becoming incomprehensible before wrapping up neatly with Bob and Marco at the kitchen table reminiscing over what a swell gal Nikita was.

Parillaud, of whom little has been heard of since, at least outside France, has a scrawniness that suits her early punk incarnation but not enough charisma to make her later character convincing. Jean Reno who appears in a small role would  become the main act in Besson’s vastly superior English language re-working of this, Leon The Professional (1994).




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