Claude Besson

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La Femme Nikita Review


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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.

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