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LA FEMME NIKITA

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Anne Parillaud, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Tcheky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau, Jean Reno
Director: Luc Besson
Audio: French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: July 1, 2003

Film ***

La Femme Nikita was successful for three separate reasons. First, it introduced the States to writer/director Luc Besson, whose future work would be nothing short of spectacular. Secondly, it spawned off a highly successful cable television series that may have outlived the movie. And lastly, it more or less gave women all around the world a reason to love the action movie genre, by presenting a character that was a hundred percent bad ass and equally original. Besson’s film is a one of a kind character piece focusing on the transformation of a burned out soul, who in turn unexpectedly finds redemption and a purpose to live.

Nikita, played with gusto by French beauty Anne Parillaud, is quite a loose cannon at the film’s beginning. She takes part in the robbery of a drugstore along with her criminal pals. When the robbery goes south, and all of her cohorts are gunned down by the cops, Nikita makes a pivotal decision and takes a cop down at point blank range. This gesture will indeed change her life, but not in the way you’d expect it to.

She is immediately given a death sentence by the courts for her actions, and she desires nothing more or less since she is anti-social to begin with. But then something strange happens. Her death is mysteriously faked, and the woman discovers that she has landed in the confines of a secret government location. Soon, it is revealed that this once uncaring and lethal woman has been selected to be a subject of this particular government program, which takes individuals with basically no purpose in life, or desire to live, with the needed skills, and reprograms them to become fast thinking assassins.

The woman previously known as Nikita is given a new identity, a makeover, and much elaborate training in order to execute marksman-like skills. She is also under the very watchful eye of a spy-trainer who goes by Bob (Tcheky Karyo), who supplies her with various assignments. His sharp consistency plays an intricate role in triggering her rage at just the right tone so that she can get the job done.

After three years of training, she leaves the secret training facility so that she can attempt to lead a normal life. She does just that when she meets grocery bag boy Marco (Jean-Hughes Anglade), who immediately charms her. They soon move in together and attempt a romantic relationship, but when she is spontaneously needed for several deadly assignments, she is caught in a conflicted emotional state, which may have her questioning her skilled profession.

The film was a pitch-perfect start to Besson’s career, which led to the power packed action-fests The Professional and The Fifth Element. While La Femme Nikita doesn’t quite strike grand status as those two films, it still fits the bill in terms of high octane action entertainment, in addition to being a memorable character piece.

Video ***

A much exceptional anamorphic offering from MGM. I never had the opportunity to see the film when it first hit DVD, but this new Special Edition includes quite a nicely done transfer. Like mostly all of Besson’s film, Nikita is ever so stylish, which pays off greatly in this presentation. Despite several instances of softness in some darker lit sets, this transfer is of the usual top quality that we’ve come to expect from MGM.

Audio ***1/2

A good kickin’ audio track is supplied here in the form of a forceful 5.1 track, presented in both French and English. Action sequences and shootouts are the big standout moments here, and music delivery as well as dialogue are both highpoints, in addition.

Features ***1/2

Included on this special edition are two featurettes, “The Sound of Nikita”, and “Revealed: The Making of Nikita”. Also included are an interactive map, an Easter egg, poster galleries and a trailer.

Summary:

La Femme Nikita is a superbly executed action thriller from top flight action maestro, Luc Besson.