[Contains mouse-loving SPOILERS!!!]
Since the original Nikita (aka La Femme Nikita) was released back in 1990, it has been remade in American (as Point of No Return (aka The Assassin)), and spawned two separate TV series (La Femme Nikita in 1997 and Nikita in 2010), as well as inspiring countless other fledgling-spy-chick shows like Alias and Covert Affairs… all of which is a testament to the fertility of its premise, which sees a punky-junky juvenile delinquent being trained up and made-over as a sexy government-sponsored assassin.
Somehow, over the years, I’d not only forgotten large chunks of this film’s plot, I’d also managed to completely misremember the ending… which turns out to be far less tragic and climactic than the one I’d been anticipating. In fact, Nikita’s story has barely even begun when the end credits roll, so it’s not too surprising that other writers felt compelled to continue her multi-season-spanning adventures in another medium. There are a lot of films that tell perfectly self-contained stories, which really don’t require or benefit from sequels or televised adaptations… but Nikita is a prime example of a seedling crying out to be propagated.
Which isn’t to imply that it isn’t a fine piece of work in its own right, of course… writer-director Luc Besson has crafted an impressively stylish and compelling thriller, which somehow manages to make a sympathetic heroine out of a (reformed) remorseless cop-killer. That said, looking back, I can’t help wondering whether the incompetence of Nikita’s unseen employers was intended as a comment on the general inefficiency and ineptitude of government agencies, or if Besson was fudging plot-points, simply to drum up the suspense. For example, when our heroine is sent off on a “vacation” to Venice (with her unsuspecting boyfriend in tow), she isn’t informed that she’s actually on a mission until a couple of minutes before she’s expected to shoot a distant target from the (sealed) window of her en suite! I guess it helps sell her cover as a tourist, since that’s exactly what she is right up until the moment her hotel room phone rings, but how did they know she’d be there to take the call, rather than off on some random sight-seeing trip? And how could they set that whole trip up so far in advance, without knowing the actual identity of the intended target until about ten seconds before she needed to pull the trigger? Of course, the big boss was pretty upfront about the fact he hated her and wanted her dead, so I guess that could have something to do with why she was so poorly supported on her missions…
My other slight issue with the film (besides all the synth music) has to do with Anne Parillaud’s casting as the title character. Don’t get me wrong… I think she has the perfect physique for this sort of role, and I buy her performance one hundred per cent in all of the post-graduation scenes (both romantic and action-oriented). It’s just that she was turning 30 when this film was made, so the earlier scenes of her playing a teenage hooligan acting out against adult authority figures rang a little false to me, even before I did the maths. Weirdly, when she puts on a longer wig (loaned to her by the agency’s resident femininity maven, played by French film legend Jeanne Moreau), she looks the spitting image of Milla Jovovich, who would go on to play a somewhat similar role in Besson’s The Fifth Element, seven years later. Jovovich was only 15 at the time this film was made, but I can’t help wishing she’d appeared here as the younger Nikita, to give those scenes a little more authentic teenage angst and energy.
Petty gripes aside, it’s a solid and thoroughly entertaining foundation for a franchise that continues to thrill audiences around the world, and will no doubt continue to do so for many years to come.