Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anne Parillaud, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Tchéky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau, Jean Bouise, Jean Reno, Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu, Roland Blanche, Jacques Boudet
Written by: Luc Besson
Directed by: Luc Besson
MPAA Rating: R
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 118
Date: 02/21/1990

La Femme Nikita (1990)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hell in Heels

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Luc Besson had a sizable hit in American theaters with this influential French-language action film; his slick, pulpy filmmaking skills are finely honed here, making clean use of a widescreen frame, and the result is an exciting ride, dated only by the late-1980s synthesizer score. (The "La Femme" part was added to the original title "Nikita" so Americans wouldn't think it was a Russian film.)

Anne Parillaud stars as the title character, a former thief who killed a cop during a robbery. She's "killed" and then trained and given a new life as a spy/assassin. Once she goes back to her regular life, she's basically always on call. One assignment simply requires her to dress up as a maid and deliver some food to a man in a hotel room. But another one comes when she's in a hotel room with her boyfriend Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade); she must excuse herself, go to the bathroom, assassinate someone out the window, and get rid of the gun while her unknowing boyfriend tries to talk to her from the other side of the locked door. It's a great, gripping sequence, one of quite a few in this movie.

Tchéky Karyo plays Nikita's trainer, Bob, Jeanne Moreau teaches her about clothing and style, and Jean Reno steals his scenes as "The Cleaner," who comes in after a botched job. He played another version of the role in Besson's great Leon (a.k.a. The Professional), and Quentin Tarantino copied the idea with Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. La Femme Nikita was remade in English two years later as Point of No Return, with Bridget Fonda, and two TV series followed, with Peta Wilson (1997-2001) and Maggie Q (2010-2013).

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